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Guest wbottomley

Here's a copy of the article that will run in a weekly newspaper in my area...

On any given evening, one could expect to run into a traffic jam in most cities. However, heavy traffic is not something to which most people on Glade Valley Road are accustomed.

Around the holidays, William Bottomley is partly to blame. Bottomley, who lives about four miles from N.C. 18, has been putting on an expansive Christmas light show for several years now.

The light display, dubbed “High Country Lights” by Bottomley, is controlled by a home computer and punctuated by a synchronized FM broadcast of seasonal music.

The annual display is definitely drawing crowds, said its creator.

“I have no real way of counting visitors, but when it gets close to Christmas, there gets to be a lot of traffic,” said Bottomley.

Traffic can get heavy early in the season due to Christmas tree operations also in the area that are closing down around the time the light display begins, he noted. However, that part of the traffic eases up after the choose and cut season and other Christmas tree harvests end for the year.

The display runs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and Fridays and Saturdays from 6 p.m. until 11 p.m., weather permitting. The light display will continue nightly through Jan. 1, 2008.

After that, local people will have to wait until next year for another taste of Christmas.

To get a parking place, he suggests that viewers either come very early or toward the end of the night. “We’re the busiest in the middle,” he said.

Hard to describe with words, the lights change colors, revealing changing patterns and words in a form of computer animation. The light show is synchronized to the music, available on 96.5 FM to those arriving at the display. Bottomley has been dubbed his music cast “The Saint Nicholas Broadcasting Company.”

Bottomley started with a more modest display of lights about 15 years ago and added in the animation about three years ago. Since then, the number of viewers has grown each year.

People come from Alleghany and surrounding counties, including some in Virginia, to see the lights, he said.

The current display, which features between 55,000 and 60,000 lights in all, features numerous color changes from red, green and blue to clear.

In addition to the lights, Bottomley said Santa Claus would be on hand on Saturday night from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. giving out candy canes.

“This is the first year I’ve had Santa out there, and it seems to be a big hit,” said Bottomley.

Bottomley said the show is controlled by a computer program specifically designed for Christmas lighting, with more information available at www.lightorama.com. “Once it’s programmed and downloaded to the controller, everything becomes automated after that,” he said. “There’s no turning on that switch or plugging in that cord.”

While the display brings pleasure to many, it is not without cost.

For instance, high winds on Sunday caused the display to need extensive repairs and caused it to be shut down for two nights. “My big inflatable snowman was ripped right through the center,” said Bottomley. The 12-foot-tall figure will cost about $300 to replace, he noted.

The electricity cost is also a factor. Bottomley said, “My electricity bill was $35 extra in 2006. I figure it will be near $50 this year.”

As to how he keeps the cost down with so many lights, he said, “My lights are blinking and not every color is on at one time. Plus I only run display at 80 percent brightness. I’m saving money in electricity and the lights are lasting longer.”

While there are no charges or fees to view the lights, Bottomley said anyone wishing to pitch in is welcomed. However, the money won’t go toward paying for this year’s expenses.

Bottomley, who says he’s in it for the long haul, says he uses any donations to replace or upgrade equipment—or to help offset the cost of making the display even bigger in years to come.

Large Christmas displays are not an inexpensive hobby for those interested in getting involved, said Bottomley. He suggests getting lights and other equipment during before and after Christmas sales to help save money.

He said he has well over $4,000 invested in the show, not counting his computer and other items like drop cords that he already had.

In addition to money, such a display also requires a large time investment.

Bottomley noted that it takes many hours of programming work to synchronize the music and lights.

“It also takes thousands of dollars for the lights and the equipment to make it all work together,” he said. “I get most of my returns for my investment in the smiles that I get to see on children’s faces every year.”

Bottomley is already dreaming up new ideas for next year. He said next year’s potential additions will include another giant Christmas tree, encompassing some 10,000 lights, and a children’s jukebox that will offer buttons for children to push to activate special Christmas music. And of course, a replacement snowman for the large one damaged in the windstorm Sunday.

Bottomley noted that he and other Christmas light enthusiasts gather to share ideas online.

To find out more about Christmas lighting, he suggests that interested parties visit the Web site at www.planetchristmas.com.

For more information, to make a donation, or to volunteer to help with the light display, contact Bottomley via e-mail at

Dan... looks like more controllers are on order.

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Guest wbottomley

Thank you Dan.

The part about donating, I perfer not to take money which I told the newspaper but some people insist I do. I just take it and say "thank you." If you don't, they're feelings might be hurt.

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