As darkness overtook Six Flags Circle in Buellton on Saturday evening, 70,000 lights started to dance to the music at the home of Dan and Michelle Alexander.


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They shimmered and blinked in step with a rendition of “Wizards in Winter” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, their colors flashing in and out across the edges of the home, an arch leading to the driveway, 77 mini trees that appeared to be chasing each other, a 21-foot-tall Christmas tree, and a large Sycamore, whose branches beamed in and out with tempo of the three-minute tune.

And so, a stunning Christmas light show returns to Buellton, the work of Dan, whose display not only pleases passersby tuning in with their car radios to 107.1 FM but also benefits underprivileged children.

Four years ago, the couple partnered with Old Mission Santa Ines to collect toys for the Mission’s Christmas Basket Program. Donating is easy: just drop an unwrapped toy into the large red bin in the home’s driveway. The light show runs through Dec. 16, from 5:30 to 10 p.m. on the weekdays and through 11 p.m. on weekends. A special event with Santa Claus is set for Dec. 15 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Baskets will be delivered to around 120 local families on Dec. 21.

“I always wanted to adopt a family, so this is kind of our way of adopting a lot of families with the help of everyone who gets involved,” Michelle said. “The toy drive was the afterthought to the initial chaos. We thought we had to do something good with this display, and so this is our way of giving back to our community.

Seven years ago when the Alexanders, both now 33, moved to Buellton, their Christmas display was more ho-hum than Ho-Ho-Ho, Michelle said. Today it’s become a painstakingly choreographed light show set to a variety of songs, including “Silent Night,” “Amazing Grace” (Techno version), “Wizards in Winter,” and even a 1987 song by Run-D.M.C. called “Christmas in Hollis.”

“We had a string of white lights on the eaves and a blow-up display,” Michelle recalled. “Now it’s like Disneyland meets Vegas.”

Dan started adding more lights and inflatables, and ultimately ramped up the static display a few dozen notches to the dynamic one it became. The couple eventually earned a “Christmas Light Display” award from the Rotary Club. They’d win the first three years until the contest was ended. “They said never mind,” Michelle said, with a chuckle.

Synchronized to music, the lights are powered through Light-O-Rama control boxes into which the extension cords are plugged to power the display’s lights. Dan works with computer software that controls 240 channels whose output is an equal number of light configurations. Dan, who starts setting up the display the day after Halloween, can determine how the lights will react every 10th of a second, a meticulous process that can take 60 hours to program the lights for one song.

“It’s like a huge canvas on a computer,” Dan explained.

“You have to listen to the beat of the music and imagine what the lights will look like,” Michelle added. “I liken it to a heart-rate monitor.”

The light display, powered by two miles of extension cords, also costs a pretty penny: $1,200 in electricity, or $40 a night. Not surprising since Dan has lengthened the show – which repeats for several hours each night – from 22 minutes to 33 this year.

“I don’t use any more electricity than I can use,” Dan said, “though sometimes the lights in the house really dim when this thing is going.”

One year Dan used generators to power the display, and, when the neighborhood lost power, “it looked like we sucked all the energy from the city,” Michelle said with a laugh. No one complained, but one woman thanked them because the glow of the house helped her navigate home.

The display hasn’t deterred would-be homebuyers from moving into the neighborhood and has garnered support from the community. “We haven’t had any problems, knock on wood,” Michelle said. “We just live in an awesome community.” The Alexander family, which includes Bradley, 7, and Danielle, 4, hopes the community will donate toys to help brighten Christmas for needy kids. If people cannot drop off toys at the home by Dec. 16, they are encouraged to bring them to the Mission at 1760 Mission Drive in Solvang.