Wednesday, December 27, 2006
What a year! The display has grown from 16 channels and 8 ,000 lights last year to 48 channels t0 13,000 lights today. We found several obstacles this year that delayed the final completion of the display and we have started planning for Christmas 2007 as we speak. We will expand by another controller, maybe two. We purchased another 10,000 lights during the sales this year.
Chris wants to build a Mega-Tree for next year, Laura wants the three pine trees illuminated.
Our Toy-for-Tots collection went well for our first year, although we forgot to count the toys we did have a chance to photograph the toys collected. I would like to personally Thank all the families that supported the Toys for Tots this year, without your caring several children in the valley would not have had a Merry Christmas.
We collected two full bins of toys that where delivered to SSgt Telles on Friday December 22.
We plan on continuing to be a Toys for Tots collection location next year, hoping to be even more successful.
Again, a warm Thank You to everyone whom participated.
After Christmas Sales, I have waited for this day all year, I was not going to let this day pass without trying to get my share of sale items. I started at Lowes a week ago, they placed all holiday decorations on 50% off one week before Christmas. I was able to procure 3 bundles of garland, 5 metal flood light bases, 5-6" clear light balls, the only lights they had left on the shelf was clear. Well the day after Christmas, we pushed ourselves to get out of bed and headed out early to the super Wal-Mart, I was a little disappointed when we arrived, not much was left to pick over, I did get my hands on 2 multi nets, 2 red nets, 2 blue nets, 5 flood light bases, 4 icicles all for 50% off. Our next destination took us to Home Depot, they had lights but little decorations, we walk out with 24 Gold - 100ct strings and 24 Red strings at 75% off.....I should have bought more......Next I went to the other Home Depot which had absolutely nothing so we went to Wal-Mart in East Lancaster and found the mother load of lights. We walked out with 4 blue nets, 10 green candy canes, 20 green and 20 blue strings, several plug adapters, and a few other items.
Traffic this year again picked up Christmas week, exploding on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We placed our patio fire place and enjoyed the lights and company of others several nights this year. We had two nights of rain this season, one of them requiring us to shut down, while we enjoyed the lights Christmas Eve, Denver Colorado was under 4 feet of snow, Christmas in Southern California does have it's advantages.
Take down will begin after the first of the year, and the display will continue until New Years Eve nightly. We expect the take down to take approximately 4 days.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The display has been running for 19 days now. No problems have come up and traffic has been good although it is picking up as we get closer to Christmas.
The Toys for Tots bin has been out every night, we have had at least three families generously donate toys. I'm hoping this will continue through the season.
The web site is getting hits from visitors on average of 130 per night. Tonight we passed the 11,000 unique hit mark with about 80,000 page views.
We still continue to modify the display and sequences trying to make things a little better.
We have exceeded the 1 mile mark in extension cords.
Nightly, I am setting up things around 5:00 PM, if you are in the area and you would like to see how things operate, feel free to stop by and say hello.
Thanks to everyone whom has sent emails or posts on the BLOG or the Guest Book, your kind words really make this worth while, I'm glad everyone is enjoying the display.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
The display has ran without any problems since Friday November 24th. We continually add to the display when time and temperatures permit. We had a cold spell hit us last week taking us into the teens, very cold in my opinion, so we did not do much to the display. Last Thursday things started to warm up for us while the rest of the nation went into the same deep freeze, several other lighting enthusiast were hit hard either by wind, snow or ice and lost several component to their display.
Traffic has picked up from one car every 1/2 hour to 2 or 3 cars at a time on Saturday night. Unfortunately the Tots for Tots is not going as well as expected, we have yet to collect a single toy, aside from what we have placed into the bin. I am hoping this changes as the traffic to the display changes.
We installed 10-100 light balls into the tree and built the wire harnesses to power them, hoping to have them illuminated tonight. We installed the Candy Canes (18), they are not wired yet, not sure how we are going to set them up, Laura wants them all to be individually controlled but that will take another 1800 feet of SP2 wire. We have the channels available just not the wire.
We are still re-Sequencing last years music, still have several to complete.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Really quiet today, I did get to sleep in until 9:30 AM. We did not get much done at all today, I re-sequenced 3 of the 4 songs I planned on redoing, better some then none. Re-sequencing the music is taking almost as much time to complete as it did to create the original sequence.
Chris and I watched the show from the truck again tonight, we went out about 8:00 PM, hoping to catch the end of the schedule, we missed it, the show already restarted. I did get a good look at the re-sequenced songs, they look really good.
A friend of the family stopped by to watch the show, they said they read an article in the paper regarding us............That's funny, I know we sent out press releases to the papers, I guess they didn't want to talk to us this year, or just published from the press release.........I must be getting good at this or they are hiring graduates from Ohio State. I will have to go by and see if I can pick up a few copies.
Back to work on Monday, have a few projects their that need attention, this should help make the week go by fairly quickly.
We will try to install the 6" light balls in the trees on Monday and get them assigned to channels.
Saturday, November 25, 2006
The Sign is complete!
We finished the Merry Christmas sign today, Finally! I have worked on this project daily since the end of September, the letters are works of art, I just hope they last! The should with 3 coats of resin, 7 coats of paint and 7 coats of clear coat, I don't think I have much to worry about. I will be posting a step by step how for this project on QuartHillChristmas.com shortly, if your interested.
Today Chris and I sat in the truck across the street watching the show for at least one and one half hours, I am always critiquing my own work, I must change this about that sequence. Some day I will finish.....At this rate, I don't think so!
No collections for Toys for Tots today, still not expecting much yet, hopefully this will chance soon.
Completed 2 more songs of re-sequencing, this is taking more time that I planned. I have copied all my music and sequences to another computer, so I can continue to work while the show is playing, otherwise I might have to relax for a few hours......I haven't done that for two months now, why start now. I will try to have four more done tomorrow.
Our web site stats are still climbing, last January when we launched the site, we received 1079 unique visitors, as of today we have had 2304 unique visitors for the month of November.
Tomorrow we will also be trying to install the snow balls in the trees and setting out the candy cane and hooking them up, I have a few other strings to install at other locations and then I think I will call it quits for this year or at least until the first of the year!
Friday, November 24, 2006
Today was the official opening of the display.
We did not work on the display much today, we were up very early (Black Friday) and at the stores by 7:00 AM, we did get everything we wanted, I would list here but the kids may actually read this.......Sorry Nate! Dad isn't that old. I did however find several new 6" light balls at Walgreens and snow flakes at Lowes, another 1000 bulbs to add to our count (13,000 +). Picked up the molding for the Merry Christmas sign, I hope we can get the final details completed on this project on Saturday.
Toys for Tots did not collect anything, not that I expected anything so early in the display, we did pick up another three toys for the bins in our travels today.
I was able to update another 2 sequences today, hoping to get several done over the next few days.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
The unofficial opening of the show ran tonight from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM.
It was a tight schedule we managed to get things running, it was a bit cold but we sat through the whole show. I still have quite a bit of work to do on last years sequences, updating them to 48 channels will take some time, glad this is a long weekend.
Last night I was able to get another sequence completed (A Mad Russian Christmas by TSO). This sequence utilizes 32 channels of the display and is nothing short of incredible.
Today we had to restructure all our voice-overs and wav files (Christmas Vacation sound bites) to include a channel that will be able to control the static display. Last year the static display was always-on, so we decided that it would be better to have this part of the display fade off during the the musical sequence and on during the non-musical parts of the show.
We placed the display signs out today and kicked up the FM transmitter, we checked the site statistics and did notice a influx of traffic to the site. It will be interesting to see how the visitor counts add up this month.
We added a Guest Book to the site, please feel free to leave us a note.
I'm getting tired, soon I can rest.
Today we finished the wiring the bushes and the static part of the display. We ran a few test just to make sure everything worked, no glitches. We had to make several custom SP2 cords, glad I had another 250' of wire. 40 bushes wired for lights independently, it's a really cool sight to see.
I wanted to count the footage of all the cord we have placed into the display, but I forgot to keep track......darn it, now I have to go through the yard and estimate or wait until the first of the year when we take things down again.
Worked on the backboard for the Merry Christmas sign, I think we have a winner. Cut the board and primed. Ran a few test colors Green vs. White, we are going with the white background with forest green trim. The MERRY part will be on an arc while the CHRISTMAS will remain straight.......That's the thought, nothing is final until it's done. I took more pictures tonight but somehow the camera is not recording to the memory stick, I'm sure my three sons would have nothing to do with this...........
We received a call from Channel 3 news, our local cable new station, I'm guessing someone forwarded the press release to them, he had quite a bit of information regarding the display that we discussed. They would like to do a weather report from our front yard in the next week. I wonder if I can hire one of the camera men to come back and tape the display.
We have also received inquiries from producers for shows on TLC and HGTV, unable to make their cut, either their schedule or mine would prevent the taping, maybe next year.
I think Chris is plum tuckered out with working on the display, he wants too, but I thinks he wants to go off and play, I guess enough is enough for him.
tomorrow, we will install the Candy Canes, work on the back board and try t install the final lights, I'm hoping to get another sequence done also.
Quartz Hill Christmas
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Setup - Day 16
Sick day today, not much got accomplished in the yard. I was able to get some rest and tweak some sequences. We sent out the press release to the Antelope Valley Press and the Daily News last Sunday, informing them of the display, our cause, and the hours.
We where able to run a few tests tonight again, everything ran perfect. We have several new songs this year, I am very please with them, they will be a nice addition to the show.
Our web site www.QuartzHillChristmas.com surpassed Octobers visitor 1699 count today, pushing us to 1783 at the days end for the month of November. Currently our visitor count since last January 2006 is 8,132 unique visitors, our hits are well over 250,000.
Here is an interesting fact: Did you know that their is a Quartz Hill in New Zealand? I get several hits per month from New Zealand, I thought I would check why, what is happening when someone in New Zealand googles Quartz Hill, guess who comes up in the search?
Currently the site is visited from around the world, countries like: Germany, Sweden, New Zealand, Ireland, Chile, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Japan, Austria, Philippines, India, and Macau.
The display is ready but not complete, I have several items to complete that will be added daily until done.
- Candy Canes
- Tree Snow Balls
- Tree Stars
- 2 wreaths to get wired
- Lights for the display sign.
- Window Light Bars.
Quartz Hill Christmas
Monday, November 20, 2006
Monday, November 20, 2006 - Amazing how the year has flown by, like the miles on my truck! Things are really getting exciting now, the neighbors are getting a taste of the show as we test, many have stopped and said how much they enjoyed it last year and pry for any new changes this year........I'm not telling, they just have to wait and see or read the previous days of this BLOG.
Today, we where able to get all the flood lights wired and tagged, it's funny how many lights I walked by with out plugging them in, I didn't notice until we ran tests on the lights again, maybe I have to many lights.......NO!, I really don't think so.
We tested the wireless speakers, great buy from E-Bay last year, we use them in the summer around the pool and in winter for the display. They worked as they should, I just have to be really careful on the volume, these speakers can wake the goblin's from last Halloween!
We ran about 30 minutes of the show, 5 minutes to test, and 20 minutes for Chris and I to praise each others hard work. I get such a kick out of this, the pinnacle of my year is about to arrive.
Quartz Hill Christmas
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Two weeks since I officially started setting up the display, 1 week of that was 15 hour days (75 Hours) and the second week was 3 hours per day (15 Hours) and two weekends (30 Hours), well I'm about at 120 hours of labor into this.........Crazy isn't it!
Why do I do it? Well I have many reasons, the three most important are:
- It's my hobby, this is what I do all year. Now it's really crazy! but think about it, for this display I'm involved with many hobbies/skills; welding, electrical, art, music, engineering, shopping, computers and wood working, it's like a all inclusive hobby.
- I get to spend a tremendous amount of time with my youngest son Chris, he loves this stuff as much as I do, he's like a sponge and wants to know and do everything; what's that tool called, can I cut that, can I go on the roof with you and he tested over 40 strings of lights without a single complaint.
- Giving something back. We all take from our communities, Little League, Soccer, Church to name a few, most people that are involved with these organizations are giving to the community, helping to make it better for all of us, so why not try to give something back to the folks, something they look forward to every year. I feel real good seeing kids dance on the sidewalk to the music, folks with tears in their eyes because of a melody that moved them, their is something really magical about this.
Yes, today was a very good day, we where very busy putting in the 4 new 20 amp circuits with no trips to the hardware store (came close once but, I found the part) this will give our display a total of 120 dedicated amps.......Think about it, most homes only have a 100 amp service.This is not to say I will draw 120 amps at one time but, I need to have this power available in 8 amp switched circuits (48 circuits) at any given time, I would estimate I draw around a 20 amp load at any given time.
Once the circuits were installed, we ran the mains to the controllers about 100 feet away (this will change next year with a new sub panel in the garage) Once the controllers powered up we connected them to the computer and tested and tagged every channel, no one single problem. See I told you it was a good day. Once everything was tagged we started pulling in the lateral light lines to the controllers and as we did this I launched last years sequences so we could start testing live.....Yes! I see the light! We were unable to finish the laterals today but will continue tomorrow.
What's left on our list:
- Finish Lateral power lines.
- Finish the last few sequences.
- Hang the Merry Christmas sign.
- Finish the light bars.
- Test speakers and FM transmitter.
- Integrate new voice overs in to sequences.
- Test everything once done.
- Be done by Thursday!
Yes, it was a very good day!
Quartz Hill Christmas
Quartz Hill Christmas
Friday, November 17, 2006
Today started off really good, I arrived home from work and started in on my to-do list. pinstripped and sealed the last letter to the 'Merry Christmas' sign.
I started to lay down the lateral power line to the lights farthest away from the controllers only to realize I need 120' per color (5 Colors) and I only have two cords this long, not a big problem.
I move on to running the main power lines only to find out I do not have enough 10/3 AWG cable...............I just bought 126'............Then I realized that I needed around 125' per circuit (3 controllers - 6 circuits). Now I am worried, I really didn't think about this, I have enough for 3 circuits and now I have to buy another 375' of 10/3 at about $1.39 foot..................Uhmmmm dear, honey, love, I made a mistake.......sorta! Now I'm in a panic, quickly evaluating my options;
- Buy more power cable - Ouch!
- Check main panel - room for 6 breakers - O.K. a possibility, but very time consuming.
- Tap into the pool line (100 Amp) that is next to the controllers - time consuming also.
- Move the controllers to 60' closer to the power source - possibility of theft - will need more 16/3 cables for laterals
What it really comes down to is time then money, I will have to check pricing again on 12/3 cable to see if this will be possible.
Due to the stated problem I was unable to address the light bars again, I just might have to scrap this project and try to slip it in later.
Other than that I had a great day, now I'm a little more behind schedule....TGIF!
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Today we had another productive day working on the display, but I did not meet my demanding schedule that was created, missed one line item, So now I will have to pick that item up on Friday. I am still scheduled for a dry run this Sunday, meaning everything is done and the show is ready..........Then I can start on next year.
I was able to complete the Light post tonight, I am extremely pleased how it turned out, I mounted the Toys for Tots banner on the post. The light post will be displayed behind a collection box, helping to illuminate the box and the sign.
The post was created from 2-1/2" rain gutter down pipe, a $5.00 light fixture was placed on top and I used an old brake rotor for the base. The post was painted just by taping off everything that didn't look like a candy cane, the rotor was painted red and pin stripped with silver paint.
Chris and I got the Ginger Bread house, boy and girl down, put together and tested. We bought this several years ago at Sams Club, I still get a kick out of this unit. Chris tested all the rain deer tonight, he had to replace several lights in each deer. My original plan this year was to replace the lights and clips, I ordered several hundred clips earlier this year for this project, unfortunately the clips I ordered where the wrong size, so we will do with what we have this year.
Tonight I finished gilding the last letter to the 'Merry Christmas' sign, tomorrow I will pin stripe and place the final sealant on the letter and be on my way to figuring a way to hang them.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Today is Wednesday November 15th, day 10 of our setup. No pictures today, sorry.
We where able to get the large 48" wreath down, tested and installed on the second story.
Chris installed 300 more lights on the yard tree and still needs another 300. We tested the Rope light train and it's working perfect.
I was able to work on the Candy Cane pole some more and finished installing the light globe on top, created the base and will have finished Thursday evening.
Working on the last letter 'M' (finally) of the Merry Christmas sign, this letter will be finished by Friday. I pin stripped the 2nd to last letter tonight also.
We tested and installed all the flood lights, final adjusting will be done this Saturday evening.
List of things to do:
- Finish Christmas sign (Friday)
- Finish Candy Cane light post (Thursday)
- Test tree stars (Thursday)
- Take down Ginger Bread house (Thursday)
- Test Rein Deer (Thursday)
- Work on light bars (Thursday, Friday, Saturday)
- Install final Duplex boxes for two 20 amp circuits (Friday)
- Run lateral power lines (Friday)
- Pick up additional mini lights (Friday)
- Run main power feeds, 6- 20 amp circuits (Saturday)
- Mount Christmas Sign (Saturday)
- Work on final sequences (Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday)
- Design 2nd show schedule that will help manage traffic (Saturday)
- Test controllers, speakers, Transmitter (Sunday)
A few things left on the list, but I have a plan, with this plan we can get this production off the ground for another wonderful season.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Today we where able to create the frame for the Toys for Tots banner out of PVC 1/2" piping and mount the banner to the frame. The banner will be a two part project consisting of a candy cane post with a globe on top. I purchase the globe from Lowes for $5.00 and the post was made from
rain gutter down pipe (Didn't have any PVC that large, sometimes you have to use what you have and make it work) A square coupling was used to mount the round base to the post, I did have to create a coupling for the coupling that would allow for the round-to-square mounting. The candy cane stripping was quite easy, done with masking tape and a good eye and some paint.
Finished another letter to the 'Merry Christmas' sign, only one letter left to gold leaf then I will be able to figure out how to mount and illuminate the message.
Still have not worked on the light bars for the windows, I will have to spend time this weekend resolving and finishing all pending issues on this project.
Our web site traffic is going through the roof, we have exceeded Septembers numbers by the 10th day of November, it will be exciting to see how far we pass October. I can only guess what the number will do when the signs with the web address are placed in the display along with the voice overs giving the web address.
Our annual press release for print media will be sent out next week, last year we had some very nice articles done by both the Antelope valley Press and the Daily News, unfortunately I was only able to capture a copy of the AV article. I'm a little concerned about traffic this year, I really don't want to irritate my neighbors, so I have designed a couple of different schedules that will assist with the traffic should I need it.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Today is day eight of our setup, a lot has happened in the last week, I was actually hoping I would have been a little further, but glad to be at this point rather than further behind.
Today was back to work, ARGH! so my time on the display will be a matter of hours per day, I will have to organize to get things completed in time. I Installed the controllers today, must say they look handsome in their home (it's a guy thing!)
We did get all the bush net lighting installed yesterday, eventhough we still had to make another run to K-Mart for three more nets. 40 bushes total, the upper bushes by the house will be controlled in color groups and the lower bushes at the street will be controller in color groups also, but separate from the upper, I have sequenced a song specifically for this effect "Disney's - Electrical Light Parade", I can't wait to see it live.
I took the wire I bought from Lowes and was able to make two 65 foot feeder cords from it, still a great deal I got on this wire. It will come in handy powering up the third controller.
Currently we have 8,500 lights installed with 300' of rope light, another 300' of 4 channel C9's and a few other things not counted. Looks like we will be breaking 10,000 lights this year, I hoping the additional controllers will allow for power savings, since we will have less lights that are 'Always On' and when they are it will be even less than last year. I sold Laura on the idea last year that we can save on electricity because of the controller and come to find out we actually spent $150.00 more than the previous year............I blamed it on the rate hikes!
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Today we did not get anything done on the display, it was sort of a day off. Drove down to Huntington Beach (110 Miles one) to watch my son not play in his teams baseball tournament, but when he did play it was at first base...hmmmmm, last time he played first base was when he was 10, maybe the coaching is a little confused on the players they draft and the positions they play?
My lovely wife did make it to K-Mart while we where away, and she did find ALL the net lighting I needed in the colors I needed, I think Wal-Mart and Target got confused this year because their pricing is through the roof and their selection stinks. I guess next year I will check with K-Mart first and start their on Black Friday for the sales.
I did make it to Lowes tonight and found a spool of 12/3 wire on the mark down table with no price, I asked a clerk about it and he said see the manager to get a price, boy! did I get a price (Reg $1.38 per foot) they gave it to me for .10 cents per foot, $10.00 for a $138.00 spool of wire, and best yet, I needed it!
Now that we have the net lighting, Bubba and I will resume Sunday on the bushes, check and setup all the flood lights (15), install the snow balls in the tree, get down the candy canes and rein deer, and recheck calculations again.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Today was very productive, we got all the rope lighting installed on the roofs (300 feet total) and power cords wired to the ground and tested. We tested all the net lighting (38 Nets), found 15 that needed replacing due to fading or just bad beyond repair. We did get several nets installed on the bushes today, we went shopping for new net lights, OUCH! $8-$15.00 each, I think I will have to shop around a little more or wait till the Black Friday sales and install the balance then.
Went through the controller calculator and updated information to actual installed light, so far we are OK with our loads.
Got all the front bushes hedged and trimmed, these bushes get trimmed more than I get hair cuts each year, what ever I am doing, they sure do like it.
Nate lost their first game in the tournament (USSSA Baseball), they had the other team on the ropes into the 7th by 4 runs, then they gave up 8, ouch!, maybe the coaching is a little slow to react to their mistakes? I will be driving down to Huntington Beach tomorrow to see him play in a double header, hopping they do a little better.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Today is Thursday November 9th, Day 4 of my vacation - I am making headway on the display, but thought I would have been much farther along with things. I guess I will have to create a schedule next year as to what I wish to accomplish each day. I have all the C9's and ice cycle lights installed on the house and garage, Rope light has been sized and installed on the garage ridge lines (Red and Green this year), garland installed around the front doors.
I have had nothing but trouble with the 6 channel window light bars, If I can pull off the design it will be really neat having 6 channels just for the lower windows. The bars are built but final assembly and testing is making me rethink methods causing me to set them aside waiting for more TIME.
The new display signs just arrived and are great, I hoping to mount them on a candy stripped pole with a globe on top (North Pole look) to help illuminate the sign (GREAT, another project).
Chris has synchronized two songs already, I have 5 in the works. I'm planning to complete those next week.
The new Merry Christmas sign is almost done, at least the letters, still not sure how I will mount them on the wall but, I'm not worried, I know I will get this resolved.
SSgt Telles, from the Toys for Tots foundation has visited and delivered the collection boxes, posters and tokens. I hope this will be a successful collection point for the foundation and for the children of the valley.
Friday I am expecting to complete the house roof ridge line rope lighting, install the 3 controllers, work on the light bars, finish the MC letters and test all the net lighting to determine what I will need to replace.
Nate has a tournament this weekend in Huntington Beach so my work on the display will have to resume late Sunday.
Monday, September 25, 2006
The event was Saturday, September 23 rd in Quartz Hill California. Christmas enthusiasm from all points of California arrived to meet and discuss Christmas Yard displays, many of them meeting face to face for the first time. The event was a local event spun from the National Planet Christmas Symposium held every other year, giving local families the opportunity to share ideas and knowledge.