Jessamine teen continues holiday light show tradition

Published 11:02 am Thursday, December 10, 2020

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For the last four years, Zachary Nielson has been in charge of covering his home in lights for Christmas.

This year, their home on Bernie Trail in Nicholasville is covered with strands upon strands of lights. There are signs and props in the front yard. Everything is coordinated to a soundtrack.

Nielson is the programmer, designer, DJ and electrician for the project. And he’s only 14 years old.

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Nielson, a high school freshman, said he took over the exterior decorations when he was 10. Each year since then, it has grown and grown.

“I started with six channels, that’s six extension cords going to six props,” he said. “Currently I have 74.”

Nielson said he has long been fascinated with engineering and electricity, and loves Christmas. The two passions combine for the holiday display, which also serves as a collection point for Packing the Pantry at Porter Memorial Baptist Church.

So far, more than 60 pounds of food has been collected and donated to the church, he said.

Nielson said he learned how to design light shows from talking with others and from watching videos on YouTube. Others with large displays have helped him with equipment, he said.

“There’s a couple light shows in Lexington where I’ve gone and talked to the people who run them,” he said.

The creator of the software he uses, Lightorama, also has a series of videos online, he said.

Coordinating and creating the show requires months of work.

“We pull up an mp3 file and program each 0.05 seconds of every song,” he said. “It takes about 30 to 40 minutes for one song.”

Installation of the lights began in August and continued until the show opened Thanksgiving weekend.

“In total man hours, I’d say it’s over 600 to 700 man hours of work for one year,” he said.

The work, he said, is well worth it.

“We’ve had some people come up and say it made their day,” he said. “People (have said) it’s a good way to get out of the house and do something good.”

His favorite, though, is seeing children’s reactions.

“They’re so excited to see Olaf talking or hear a song from ‘Polar Express,’” he said.

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun, the Jessamine Journal and the State Journal. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email or call 859-759-0051.

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