On a small street just off 9th Avenue, colorful lights dance across a rooftop, lighting up the night sky and drawing the eyes of passersby.
This very sight pulled Ursinus students Chloe Sheraden and Skye Gailing down the little street on their way home from Thanksgiving break last year.
“We saw their really bright Christmas lights and decorations and decided to check it out” said Sheraden.
What they found was a house and yard completely covered in Christmas decorations and flashing lights, with a sign out on the curb telling visitors to tune to radio station 92.3. The station played Christmas music while the lights flashed in correspondence with the music.
The house belongs to Jean and Kimberly Krack, a couple who have lived in Collegeville since 1998. Jean Krack, the architect of the light display, has been fascinated with these decorated houses since childhood. When the couple lived in the San Francisco Bay area raising their two sons, he inspired a challenge for the best light display among his neighbors, with the entire cul-de-sac lighting up the neighborhood.
For the moving lights, Jean Krack was inspired by a light show in the tunnel between terminals B and C at the Chicago O’Hare Airport.
“As I was walking down the stairway to the tunnel I first heard this really interesting music then as I got to the bottom I saw how the entire tunnel had all these lights that motioned from one end to the other. The idea struck me that maybe we could figure out how to do that with the street lights,” said Krack.
While the streetlight idea did not pan out, Krack now uses that same concept in the light show at his house. Through his inquiries into such displays, he was put in contact with a company in Kansas City that does commercial displays, and were interested in offering their equipment for residential displays.
Krack explains that in 2002 he “bought several of their controllers, radio transmitter[s] and some pre-programmed songs. Back then I also had three big trees [now removed] in the front yard and basically wrapped red, green, blue and white mini-lights
in groups of four up each of those trees. Four colors and four groups created the 16 channels which is what the controllers are based on. So that was the start of it all.”
From there, Krack built up his collection of displays, with fighting snowmen, a train, and leaping arches. Around 2006, his neighbor asked to connect his lights as well, and now combined they have about 100,000 lights.
“Our biggest nuisance is squirrels. They will eat through the wires if they are in their normal migration path. Fortunately for me, with the removal of the three trees, I don’t have the issue anymore. [My neighbor] still has to keep his lights up off the ground a bit though,” said Krack.
Said Gailing, “I love the technical masterpiece that is the Christmas house. I love lighting design, so seeing someone coordinate lighting with music is super exciting.”
Since their first visit, Sheraden, Gailing, and friends dubbed it the “Christmas house” and visit often.
“Last year, I went pretty frequently during finals week” said Gailing.
After enjoying their excursions to the house last year, both were excited for the reopening this year, and Sheraden even went straight to the house before stopping by her dorm when she returned to campus after Thanksgiving break.
Krack starts working on setting up the display in October, and works on the display every weekend, Veteran’s day, and the day after Thanksgiving, which is when it opens. The display runs through Jan. 1.
According to Sheraden, she goes “about 2-3 times a week, depend[ing] on mood and scheduling. I usually try to go with friends, but I am a lot busier than last year, so I have been going less. I always try to bring people who need a boost or those who haven’t seen it yet, so the times a week I go definitely vary.”
Both Sheraden and Gailing highly suggest visiting the house for a nice break during the stress of the final weeks of classes and to bring some Christmas joy.
“I make sure everyone knows about the house and [should] go to it if they need relief from the stressors of college” said Gailing.
When approached for comment on the popularity of the house amongst some Ursinus students, owners of the house Jean and Kimberly Krack were delighted.
“We are thrilled that you and fellow students enjoy the display. I never considered that it could be a respite during those final grueling weeks before Christmas break,” said Kimberly Krack.
For those interested in visiting the display, Jean Krack mentions that “the lights run from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm. If it is raining or just recently rained, the show might not be on due to [the fact that] all that electric and water don’t mix and circuits get blown. “
He added, “Be kind and don’t play the music loud. Glen Farms is a quarter circle so people do not need to turn around in our neighbor’s driveways.”
Said Gailing, “I definitely suggest others should go. It’s such as magical site so close to campus!”