Christmas light show in Cambridge taking donations for food shelf

By Elizabeth Sias

Cambridge area residents can enjoy entertainment right in their own neighborhood this holiday season.

The Christmas light show at 33617 6th St. NE in Cambridge will run through Dec. 25. Showtimes are 6:30, 7, 7:30, 8 and 8:30 p.m. Tune in to 106.5 FM to hear the music that goes with the show. Photo by Greg Hunt

A Christmas light show began broadcasting Friday and will run through Dec. 25.

Showtimes for the computer-programmed light show at 33617 6th St. NE are 6:30, 7, 7:30, 8 and 8:30 p.m. daily.

Each show runs about 15 minutes and syncs up with music broadcasted around the house on 106.5 FM, so people can watch and listen from the warmth of their car.

“I’ve always had an interest in Christmas and Christmas lights,” said Mike Patten, who lives at the house and programmed the entire light show. “I do a lot of computer work as a hobby, and it came to me one day. I was looking at a display and thought ‘this needs animation.’ I started thinking about how to do it, and it sort of grew from there.”

This is Patten’s fourth year running a light show, but this year he’s hoping to use it as an opportunity to raise money for the local food shelf.

Donations can be in the form of cash, checks made out to Family Pathways or nonperishable food items. A donation box will be at the end of the driveway and donations will be collected nightly.

To run the light show, Patten physically plugs the lights into controllers, electronic boxes that are wirelessly connected to his laptop. The computer then transmits commands that Patten programmed to control the lights.

There’s a new command every 1/20th of a second — a three-minute song might have over 300,000 computer commands in it, Patten said.

The Christmas lights display and show has grown every year. He took the basic program from each year and tweaked and expanded it to its current form. With the number of computer commands involved, Patten explained, it takes a few days to program a song — and when he first started, it took two weeks.

In the 15-minute show, there are two separate shows that run back-to-back, with five music tracks in each, including  the Grinch theme, “Wizards in Winter” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra and “Carol of the Bells.”

“It’s completely synced with the music,” Patten said. “It’s very fast tempo, very bright. The lights flash and chase and fade on and off.”

The show has grown in popularity every year, Patten said, adding that sometimes there are 10 or 20 cars lined up for each show.

With this being the first year as a fundraiser, Patten has no goal in mind. For him, it’s all about seeing the reactions of people watching the show.

“Absolutely the best part is just the look on people’s faces when they see it,” he said. “I get a tremendous number of e-mails from people thanking me for doing it. I love watching people and how excited they get when they see it, especially kids.”

The Christmas light show at 33617 6th St. NE in Cambridge will run through Dec. 25. Show times are 6:30, 7, 7:30, 8 and 8:30 p.m. Tune in to 106.5 FM to hear the music that goes with the show.

To get there, take Hwy. 95 west through Cambridge. Cross the Rum River. Continue through the new traffic light and take a right on Moon Lake Road. Follow it around to 6th and take a right. It’s the third house on the right.

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