NORMAN, OKLAHOMA — Seven years ago you could have driven past the Downs home in south Norman and seen a few lights on the roof, nothing special.
These days thousands of people make special trips to the Downs family home, park their cars on the front lawn, and watch the big show.
“As Christmas approaches, that’s when we get really busy,” says Chuck Downs. “You can’t drive down the road and not see this.”
If you want to build one of America’s largest private Christmas light displays it helps if you’re a software engineer like Chuck.
Of his displays origins Chuck says, “It was about the time I started seeing other displays on YouTube.”
The Downs have five kids who pitch in.
They built a huge Christmas tree in lights that really gave their visibility a boost.
Chuck says, “This tree alone has two and a half miles worth of lights.”
“I think if I strung together all the lights in the display, strung them end to end, it would end in the middle of Lake Hefner which is kind of impressive if you think about it.”
On a clear night right before Christmas Chuck might count 3,000 cars in a single night.
They park for a while, honk if they like something.
As they’re leaving, the Downs ask for a small donation.
“Completely optional,” says Chuck.
They don’t try to cover their own costs.
What they really want is a can of food or a little cash for the Regional Food Bank.
Last year was their biggest yet.
Light seekers gave $42,000 in cash and more than 10,000 pounds of food.
“It’s been increasing each year,” he says.
Back in September, well before what the Downs call their Mega-Tree set up day, the producers of a network show called them up.
They asked if they could shoot a little footage for a special, ‘The Great Christmas Light Fight’.
Chuck had three weeks to put this year’s display together.
It wasn’t fancy, only a little bigger than last year.
“I like to hold a little back.
I’ve got ideas for next year,” smiles Chuck.
The Good Book offers a little advice about light.
It says not to hide yours, but to let it shine so others can find their way.
The Downs Family Christmas display does that and a whole lot more.
The Downs turn their lights off for inclement winter weather.
Their display is located just south of Highway 9 on 72nd Street in southeast Norman.
They have a good website too http://www.downsfamilychristmas.com