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A hobby gone awry

Pyles making the Christmas season bright near Solon
An elaborate display of Christmas lights is available for free viewing daily through Christmas at 1697 Newberry Dr. in the Twin View neighborhood west of Solon. Thousands of lights, computer-driven and synchronized to music (which can be heard at 88.7 on your FM radio) provide a 42-minute show.

LAKE MACBRIDE– It all started 40 years ago, and has exploded into a light and sound spectacle that just keeps growing and growing at the corner of Hwy. 382 and Newberry Drive west of Solon and near the entrance to Lake Macbride.
“It was when I had my first daughters, and Christmas was Christmas, and I just put up a few strings (of lights), and we’ve been at it ever since,” Dan Pyle said. Pyle and his wife Hope have gone from those first few strands to 142 separate runs of extension cords supplying electricity to at least 30,000 lights.
“Originally it was just like everybody else, a few lights on the house,” he said.
Dan built an illuminated train in 1981 and ’82 and brought it along through at least four moves. “It’s (the light display) grown, and about five years ago we decided we’d synch it to music like you’ve seen on television,” he said. “Hope got intrigued with the idea of making those characters (such as a snowman in the display) ‘sing,’ and once that happened… it just went crazy. It’s a hobby that’s gone awry.”
Hope said Dan had a “small display” when they started dating. “He’d seen videos on YouTube of houses where the lights were all synchronized, and he got it in his head one year that we were gonna try this. It has blown up from there.”
Assembly of the elaborate and complicated display began two weeks before Halloween, “and I’ve worked every weekend since,” Dan said. That’s 10-hour days on Saturday and another seven or so on Sundays. He was putting up the final touches (for this year) Thursday, Dec. 7. Every bit of the display is hooked up to a computer-driven controller, with at least 168 channels routing power and timing the synchronization.
Hope utilizes a program on a computer to match each light with every note of music. As one could imagine, it is a painstaking and very time-consuming process. “It takes at least an hour per minute of song,” she said. She learned her unique craft through watching online how-to videos by others with similar displays as well as from the vendor who provided the equipment and online discussion forums.
“It’s still a work in-progress,” Hope said. “Every year I’m like, ‘OK, I can make this better.’”
It’s also been something of a loosely-kept secret. “We don’t advertise it,” Hope said. “This is the first year I’ve put it on the Solon Moms Facebook site,” she added, “Otherwise, we’ve never advertised it.”
The current production is roughly 42 minutes long with 13 songs (heard by tuning your car radio to 88.7 FM). And, Dan said, “It’s not what you’ve seen where it’s just a bunch of flashing lights. It’s very choreographed. It’s very detailed.”
Every year, it seems, there is talk of it being the last, but, “Every time, we say ‘this is enough, this is enough, one of us… and it’s a good partnership… one of us will say, ‘well, let’s do it one more year,’” Dan said. “It just keeps going and it just keeps growing. And, we get a kick out of it.”
“It’s definitely been interesting,” Hope said, “and it’s a lot of work, but we do it for people to enjoy. We get the most pleasure out of seeing the people out here.”
Dan had told her going out to look at Christmas lights was a lost tradition from when he was a kid. “I remember that, too,” she said.”
The lights come on at 4:30 p.m. and run until 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and stay on until 11 p.m. Friday-Sunday.