My dad was big into putting up Christmas lights every year – inside and out – and made sure we kept ’em lit into the new year, past “little Christmas,” as he called it. He had me helping him out, sometimes begrudgingly, each year, since we’d put them up in mid December, back when it was cold and snowy at that time of year.
That holiday tradition stuck with me and when I became a home owner in Peoria, it was my turn to turn up the lights. My North side neighbors have called me “Griswold,” after the Chevy Chase character in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation movie. I like lights, lots of multi-colored ones.
The lights have gone dark at The Watson Compound this year, as the wife and I take a break from some traditions due to demanding work schedules. But, a hockey-playing friend of mine is picking up the slack bigly.
Andy Schmidgall and his neighbor across the street, Dan Richardson, have again gone above and beyond with their outdoor Christmas light displays, keeping the Griswoldian spirit alive and well on Jadens Way in Washington.
About seven years ago, Andy and Dan started to compete with one another with tremendous light shows, synchronized to music no less, that they work on year round. After a few years, they called a truce and started collaborating, combining their Christmas super powers and electrician’s know-how.
They estimate their combined displays light up around 100,000 lights, with hundreds of channels of sequenced dancing lights. They’re most proud of this year’s dueling banjo Jingle Bells song performed by the U.S. Navy Band, which bounces the lights back and forth across Jadens Way to the beat of the music.
Their dual display continues now through January 1. Static lights turn on daily from 4:45p until 6p. Then, the shows run until 9p, Sunday through Thursday. Friday and Saturday nights, due to popular demand, the shows run from 6-10.
Seeing it live is the way to go. Just park your vehicle on the side of the street, turn off your lights and tune in your radio to 106.3 to hear the music that the lights will dance to. Shows are free, but they’re again doing charity collections for a very rare form of cancer that Andy’s wife’s aunt is battling – GYN CARCINOSARCOMA. There’s a donation dropbox in front of Andy’s at 1413 Jadens Way or make a donation through its website, GCSProject.org.
If you want to live vicariously, you can view a bunch of this year’s songs and accompanying light shows at Andy and Dan’s Facebook page. Click HERE.
Below is one of the light show songs from last year, via youtube, where you can also find many videos of their light shows by searching for Griswold Way Lights in Washington, IL.
Merry Christmas, Doc Watson.