Christmas light enthusiasts craft an Aug. 11 workshop for newcomers

If over-the-top holiday lights are right up your alley, there is a workshop next weekend to brighten your day.

MidSouth Lights, a group of Christmas light enthusiasts, grew out of the annual Christmas Expo and includes mostly Bartlett residents but also other hobbyists from Lakeland, Arlington and other communities. They host an annual workshop to help people new to the hobby.

Justin Duncan of MidSouth Lights welcomes everyone to the group’s first Mini in Memphis workshop in September 2017. Courtesy photo.

This year, they are hosting two days of events to help others explore and join their favorite pastime:

  • A meet-and-greet pizza social at 6 p.m. Aug. 10 at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 2949 Davies Plantation Road (at Davies Plantation and Highway 64) in Lakeland. Free. No specific ending time is set for the event.
  • Holiday lights workshop at 9 a.m. Aug. 11 at St. Paul’s UMC. There is a $20 entry fee that includes the workshop, lunch and snacks, and door prizes provided by vendors are available. No specific ending time is set for the event.

Advance registration is not required, but organizers said they would appreciate getting a head’s up for planning purposes. If interested, email midsouth@midsouthlights.com.

This group is lead by several past winners of Bartlett’s Christmas Lights award, and they love to share their knowledge with anyone wanting to get into the hobby.

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The local lighting enthusiasts say they are really into Christmas displays, and often Halloween displays as well. The workshop will include demonstrations of relevant hardware and software, classes on 3-D printing and advice on how to get started, build your own props and integrate the hardware, software, lights and sound.

Justin Duncan, who serves as a de facto leader of the group, also enjoys dressing up as Santa and visiting the members’ locations that put up these elaborate displays. Courtesy photo.

“It’s Christmas Decorating Over the Top 101,” said Justin Duncan, who serves as a de facto leader of the group and who also enjoys dressing up as Santa and visiting the members’ locations that put up these elaborate displays.

Duncan is the only member who works in IT professionally, but the other members have experience with many kinds of hardware and software to make their lighted home and yard displays come alive. They get to exercise their creativity, and they view the results as a gift back to the neighborhood.

“For the most part, it’s those folks who have that artistic eye, and it’s a creative outlet,” Duncan said.

It’s not a particularly costly hobby, as people can choose how much they want to invest each year, Duncan said, and other members can advise with cost-savings tips (such as shopping clearance sales after the season passes) or even sell their equipment to other members when they upgrade.

It’s also not the cheapest pastime in the world, but hobbies generally aren’t, he added.

“We let people know that you can go down the rabbit’s hole as far as you want to go,” Duncan said.

Most people come away from the group’s events with either mental overload from all the ideas swimming in their heads or a burning desire to start organizing their own home light displays.

Examples of past topics include DMX/E.131, FPP, wireframe, coroplast, static displays and just general discussions related to the Christmas holidays.

Three-dimensional (3D) printing is an important asset for Christmas light enthusiasts. Courtesy photo.

Duncan said about the workshop and about their lighting displays in general, “We see this as something we give back to the community.”

For more information, visit the group’s Facebook page at facebook.com/groups/midsouthlights or its website at midsouthlights.com.

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