couple uses illuminated display to bring joy to holidays | News
Bringing joy to the holiday season has been David and Debra Rhodes’ goal as they have decorated their home at 422 E. Seventh St. for the past five years in a display that has grown to more of 30,000 twinkling lights.
The couple won the annual Holiday Lights competition hosted by the Hastings Department of Parks and Recreation this year.
The Rhodes display has won the town’s holiday contest twice in the past five years, but that’s not the incentive to continue the display.
âIt’s good to be recognized for hard work, but the competition isn’t really the point for it,â Debra said. âWe just want to be able to bring joy to people during the holidays. Thatâs why weâre doing it.
The computer-controlled lights are programmed to sync with a holiday music playlist available by the home radio transmitter on the 91.3 FM radio station about a block from the house. With 16 songs in the musical rotation, the entire show lasts about an hour.
A Christmas tree over 20 feet tall, encrusted with glowing pixels, is prominently displayed in the front yard display.
Along the east side of their exhibit is a 40-foot-long, 12-foot-tall locomotive that David made from PVC pipe. He designed it five years ago, contributing to one of their competition victories.
âA lot of people know us as home with the big train,â Debra said. “It’s one of my favorite parts.”
New in the exhibit this year is a 5-foot-tall Star of Bethlehem. David said he was replacing a smaller version that had been used in previous screens.
Tatum Bartels, the city’s recreation coordinator, said there were seven entries for the competition this year. Changes to the Rhodes’ display and syncing to music helped put it at the top of the list.
She said the annual contest is a fun way to kick off the holidays. Members of the public are encouraged to visit each of the competitor’s exhibits and vote for their favorite on the Hastings Parks & Recreation Facebook page.
She encouraged more people to register for the annual event next year, either online or at the Parks Department office.
âIt was a lot of fun,â Bartels said. âSome people make it a family activity. It helps people get into the spirit of the Christmas holidays.
The Rhodes exhibit also includes a manger to share the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. The couple worship at Lakeside Community Church of the Nazarene, where Debra is associate pastor.
âWe want people to remember the real meaning of Christmas,â she said. âThe majority of our songs will reflect that. We just want to shed the light of Christ through our lights.
Even without the contest, the Rhodes say they would continue to make efforts – throughout the year – to prepare for the display.
As soon as the screen was taken down in 2020, David said, they started working on music selections and sequencing for that year. During free time throughout the summer, the couple work to combine lights and sounds for the annual exhibition. They start installing accessories in October and start taking the display apart usually after the first of the year.
âIt’s really a year-long process,â said David. “We are already considering some of the changes for next year.”
It was a learning process for the couple, using David’s computer experience while in the Nebraska Public Power District in Doniphan and Debra’s background teaching instrumental music at Hastings College and then Adams Central High School. . They attend virtual summits during the summer to get ideas from other parts of the United States.
âIt’s a hobby that’s quite successful around the world, actually,â she said. âWe are always learning and improving. “
After the display is first installed every year, said Debra, they drive around and watch the show to see if there are any holes or white dots in the overall display. They view the house and yard as a canvas or stage to decorate for the season.
âIt’s art,â she said. âThat’s what it is for us. We have already seen that we have an empty space at the back of the house.
The display also allowed the couple to give back to the community through a charity close to their hearts, Start Over Rover. They added a mailbox near the driveway where people can leave donations to be donated to the local animal shelter, from which they have adopted many pets over the years.
Last year, they were able to donate $ 1,500 to Start Over Rover.
âWe match every dollar put in the mailbox,â Debra said. âWe want to help in any way we can. It’s a great organization and we love them.
The Rhodesian display will remain active throughout the weekend, but weather will dictate if it stays in place longer.
The couple use a Facebook page, “7th Street Sparkles at Christmas” to provide updates to subscribers and provide a forum for viewers to share their thoughts and offer suggestions.
Looking ahead, Debra said, they plan to keep configuring the screen for as long as possible.
âWhen it stops being fun, we’ll probably stop doing it,â she said. âWe installed it ourselves. As long as we are still able to do it, we will. “