Head down Rosewood Court in Hesston during the winter months and there's a house — a block of houses now — that you can't miss. They glow, literally, with holiday spirit as part of a Christmas light display that was the brainchild of Austin Bollinger and his brothers, Nathan and Zach.
"We always decorated for Christmas and we just added more lights and more lights every year," Austin said. "Then, I saw some YouTube videos of people programming them to music and then I started getting into that."
That was five years and five houses ago. What started with six extension cords and all the lights Austin could hang across his own house has blossomed to a display spilling across six houses utilizing 100 extension cords, 50,000 lights and 6,000 channels to program a synchronized 30-minute musical program of pure Christmas wonder.
Starting in January, the Bollingers begin picking out a list of songs — which rotates each year (including "You're Welcome" from Moana, "Wizards in Wonderland," "12 Days of Christmas" and more in 2017) — to program the show to. Then, in the fall, the lights start getting put into place.
"First, we do Halloween every year, and then it just gets crazy because we have to put up all the lights to set up for Christmas, so it started in November," said Nathan.
Extended family has also been recruited over Thanksgiving to help in the set-up of the lights, while Austin noted the Bollingers' neighbors have been extremely open in allowing the display to expand beyond their own home.
Competition somewhat stoked the idea behind the light show, Austin admitted — with another display starting up at the end of the Bollingers' block a couple of years ago — but he is all for inclusion and making the attraction on Rosewood Court as big of a draw as possible over the holidays.
"We're trying to get everybody in the neighborhood involved and get it all synchronized to the music. That's one of our goals is trying to get a big display kind of like the Wichita ones," Bollinger said. "We like to bring Christmas cheer to everybody and have them come look at the lights. It's a pretty cool hobby to have that my brothers have gotten into and we all enjoy it every year."
Bollinger, an engineering student at Emporia State University, was partially drawn to the hobby through the programming aspect of it — getting to pick the songs, effects, etc. in creating a unique show.
This year, Bollinger noted he is particularly fond of the new pixel tree in their yard, which offers him the ability to control each bulb in order to create unique images and effects — like flashing the five golden rings or having the partridge fly across the pear tree during the "12 Days of Christmas."
"It takes probably about 100 hours to program all the songs, but it's worth it in the end to see everything's working," Bollinger said. "After we get it all done, it looks pretty cool."
Seems the Hesston community agrees, as the Bollingers noted they have a steady stream of traffic throughout the winter while their display is up.
"Pretty much, we're known as the Griswold family in town," Austin said. "Everybody comes and enjoys it, especially all the little kids. They love to come out and just sit and watch all the lights. It's began probably a Hesston tradition now for everybody to come and watch the display."
On top of spreading Christmas cheer through the light display, the Bollingers also ask visitors for donations that go towards the local Salvation Army food bank — raising about $2,500 over the past five years.
While the Bollingers are keen on giving, they tend to be the recipients of some specific charity, too — as many interested parties (including the Bollinger brothers) are intent on seeing the Christmas display continue to grow.
"I think it just kind of becomes and addiction. It was like, oh, every year I wanted to buy more Christmas lights," Austin said.
"Also, our neighbors are even willing to buy Christmas lights for our light show," Nathan said. "That's pretty crazy."
For those interested, the Bollingers' show — centered at 405 Rosewood Court, Hesston — goes from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5:30 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The show will be ongoing through New Year's Eve.