- Associated Press - Thursday, December 24, 2015

MULBERRY, Fla. (AP) - In a neighborhood in Mulberry, there is a home that shines so brightly, it lights up the entire street.

There, along with an impressive light show, is the man responsible, Don Weaver, who will shake your hand, help you find a place to park your car and invite you into his yard-turned-Christmas-wonderland.

“I started with 42,000 the first year and now I’m up to more than 110,000,” Weaver said about the lights.

Weaver and his wife, Merita, have been putting on a Christmas show at their home for seven years now, and the lighting arrangements have gotten bigger with every passing year.

“The lights just bleed out into other parts of the neighborhood. It’s beautiful. We have been looking forward to it since October,” said neighbor Jose Rivera.

A lighting director who has done work for “Good Morning America,” the Academy Awards and Miss USA pageants, Weaver decided to turn his house into a light show because his wife told him there was no reason not to do it.

“I do it because I enjoy talking to the people who come to see it, and seeing the kids’ faces and having them ask questions about how I do it,” Weaver said.

For four hours a night, people from all over the county set up lawn chairs and watch how the Christmas lights dance to numerous holiday jingles, and they take pictures with the decorations.

The house is not only a spectacular display of Christmas lights and decorations but a show for people to watch and enjoy for a little over an hour, starting at 6 p.m. and repeating until 10 p.m. Creating the presentation, however, was no easy feat.

“There are 21 songs, and it took me about eight hours to program the lights to each one,” Weaver said.

Not only did he spend about 360 hours setting up the home, Weaver said, he had to buy the rights to the songs he used so he would not get fined for them when people take videos and post them to YouTube.

“Each song is $79, so I went ahead and paid for all of them so people can take video and post them without having to worry,” he explained to intrigued bystanders.

When Weaver started seven years ago, he said he would have a fair amount of people come to see his home - but now, since the show has grown to something of a spectacle, he averages about 300 cars a night.

“Last year around Dec. 19, I was getting about 500 to 700 cars a night, and I expect it to pick up like that the closer it gets to Christmas,” he said.

Whether people were driving by to gaze at the show or parking to interact and walk around in it, people of all ages were impressed and curious about how Weaver was able to put it all together.

“It’s gorgeous,” said Teresa Smith of Lakeland. “When we walked up and first saw the lights, it was just so beautiful - there’s nothing like it.”

While most, like Smith, made comments about the show’s wow-factor, 12-year-old Nicholas Jones had a few practical thoughts on the Christmas decor.

“How do you mow your lawn?” he asked Weaver, who responded with a smile and chuckled, “Well, I guess I won’t be mowing this month.”

Weaver said because the lights have multiplied and the show has gotten more attention, people have driven from as far as Daytona Beach or Brooksville to set up lawn chairs across the street and watch the show.

“Last year, they sat out in the rain with umbrellas and watched,” he said.

The show will run nightly until Dec. 31.

And as the lights danced to the beat of Christmas classics, kids were dancing, too, and it was clear Weaver found comfort in being able to provide Christmas cheer for so many people.

“Every day, I still watch and see the show and am still amazing at the hard work put into it,” Rivera said.

“We can only look forward to next year,” echoed fellow neighbor Tony DeJesus.

___

Information from: The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.), https://www.theledger.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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