Snow It Goes: Holiday lights

You and I may spend an afternoon putting up a few strings of Christmas lights along the roof of the house. If we get crazy, we may even add another string of lights that blink to the bushes out front.

You and I may spend an afternoon putting up a few strings of Christmas lights along the roof of the house. If we get crazy, we may even add another string of lights that blink to the bushes out front.

But for families such as the Hockenberrys in Plain Township and the Bivianos in Green, creating a holiday light display is a multiple-month installation process with more than a half-million lights that dance to music and literally stop traffic.

Thinking of going big with your holiday light display? Chad Hockenberry and Tony Biviano have these tips for you.

No. 1: Start small
Hockenberry said if you try to get too big and too technical right away, it likely will become overwhelming and discouraging. He started with just a few light-show controllers six years ago and now has more than 20.

No. 2: Buy decorations after the holidays
Biviano, who began his light show in 2010, purchases his Christmas decorations in January. “Buying 50 percent off or more keeps it affordable,” he said.

No. 3: Find a mentor
“Find somebody like me or somebody else who does it,” Hockenberry said. “We try to all work together and try to help each other.”

No. 4: Invest in the technology
Both Biviano and Hockenberry use Light-O-Rama computer software to program when the lights of their holiday display will dim, twinkle and shimmer. A 16-channel residential starter kit, including the software, cables and adapters, starts at more than $300. “It’s an expensive hobby, but it’s totally worth it when you literally see kids dancing in the streets,” Biviano said.

No. 5: Have a dedicated space for storage
Hockenberry admits that he already is running out of room at his two storage containers and figures he will need a 30-by-40-foot barn to hold all of his decorations. He knows others who rent multiple storage units for their decorations.

No. 6: Set aside the time
Hockenberry said he has a few friends who help him, and they have spent nearly every night since October testing and preparing the light display.

No. 7: Spread the joy
Both the Bivianos and Hockenberrys donate the contributions they receive to charity. The Bivianos accept monetary donations to benefit Akron Children’s Hospital and collect toys for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program, which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy gifts. The Hockenberrys annually support a juvenile diabetes charity, and this year, the family also will donate to a breast cancer charity to honor the Barthel’s Garden Center’s gift shop manager who died earlier this year. Donations of food will be given to the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, Hockenberry said.

“My kids are 6, 10 and 11, and it’s a great way for them to learn how to give back,” Hockenberry said.

No. 8: One last thing
And finally, “Have a very understanding, supportive wife!” said Biviano, who has been married to Sara since 2012. Hockenberry agreed, saying his wife, Charity, as well as his three children get involved.

To view the Hockenberrys’ display, visit Barthel’s Garden Center at 8088 Market Avenue N in Plain Township. The Bivianos’ display can be seen at 4781 Wildflower Drive in Green and online at facebook.com/holidaysonwildflower.

Eight more spectacular displays to check out!

• Drive-thru holiday light display at Stadium Park, from 12th to 25th streets NW, Canton
• Canton South Christmas, 3851 Highview Avenue SW, Canton Twp.
• Aberdeen Allotment display, 6841 Regina Circle NW, Jackson Township
• Metzger Lights at 920 Richard Drive, Louisville
• Lights on Cyprus, 2220 Cyprus Drive SE, Massillon
• Vandegrift family musical display, 1557 Elberta Avenue SW, North Canton
• The Bright Lights on Bramblebush, 1639 Bramblebush Avenue NW, Perry Township
• Wallace holiday lights, 7363 Saratoga Hills Street NE, Plain Township
—Kelli Young

MORE BRIGHT LIGHTS
One of the best parts about the hectic holidays? The sparkling lights. There are plenty to enjoy if you know where to look. On December 3, the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce will host its spectacular, ever-growing annual celebration, “Light Up Downtown” on Central Plaza featuring live entertainment, fireworks and visits by Christopher Popkins and the “big guy” himself, Santa. Visit lightupdowntown.com or call 330-456-7253.

On December 11, Canton Parks and Recreation will offer a “Pancake Dinner with Santa” from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Canton Garden Center. cantonohio.gov/parksandrecreation.

If you’re feeling adventurous, head down to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s “Wildlights” holiday display, starting November 20 and ending January 3. columbuszoo.org

In Cincinnati, you’ll find “The Christmas Ranch,” a walk-thru park and holiday village which boasts one million LED Christmas lights, synchronized to music. Starts November 27 and runs through December 31. For more information, visit thechristmasranch.com or call 513-444-9362.

Farther south, the Oglebay Resort & Conference Center in Wheeling, West Virginia, hosts its world-famous “Winter Festival of Lights” from November 13 to January 3. The display covers more than 300 acres over a six-mile route. oglebay-resort.com.
—Charita Goshay