Family plugs in, turns on rerun of Christmas cheer|[11/27/07]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 27, 2007

After the 2006 edition of the Turner family’s Christmas light show caused traffic jams and even accidents in front of their house on Castle Road, the family said, “Never again.”

But they didn’t get rid of the lights or computers, and so last week, the family was out on the front lawn, setting things up.

Last year, hundreds of cars made their way out to Camelot subdivision off Fisher Ferry Road south of Vicksburg to see the lights, which 17-year-old Stephen Turner had choreographed to high-tempo music.

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Stephen, now 18 and a senior at Vicksburg High School, and his father, Kent, a computer scientist with ERDC, took on the project in late 2005 after seeing a Miller Lite beer commercial featuring a light display synchronized to music by the Trans Siberian Orchestra.

The light show in the commercial was designed by an Ohio electrical engineer named Carson Williams, using a computer application known as Light-O-Rama, which the Turners obtained. The Internet is filled with videos of lighting spectaculars all across the nation as the blending of technologies becomes more popular.

Speaking of popularity, Stephen was also asked to design a similar show this year for Vicksburg Factory Outlets.

“I just thought it was really neat,” said Margaret Gilmer, director of the retailing center, who took her grandchildren to see the Turners’ light show last year. “I got to thinking, maybe we could do something like that on a larger scale.”

Stephen began working in late spring on the outlet mall display, which has been switched on and will run every night this season.

“It’s actually pretty simple,” Steven said, downplaying the sophistication of the computer program ginning behind the scenes. “It just tells the lights whether to be off or on.” Still, he said, it took him about a month to program the lights and music for his first song.

Viewers are instructed to tune their vehicle radios to an FM frequency to pick up the low-power signal to hear the sounds to accompany what they see.

It was deference to neighbors on their Camelot cul-de-sac that made repeating the residential version of the show unlikely. “I expected a crowd. I was not prepared for what happened,” Kent Turner said. People drove from as far as Jackson for the 10-minute experience, he said, and there were several accidents as cars jockeyed for a better view of the lights. “If I lived next door to this, I wouldn’t want it,” he said.

Incredibly, however, there were no complaints from neighbors about the nightly lines to witness 24,000 lights in the manic holiday frenzy. “We love it,” said a neighbor, Cindy Goss. She and her husband, Dale, live in the house closest to the Turners, and Turner said he saw people drive over their lawn last year.

Goss said they were not aggravated by the crowds, and that she and her husband look forward to having their 2-year-old grandson, Damien Reeves, see this year’s display.

“The whole family works together on it, and Stephen is a real smart kid. They all are,” she said.