WASHINGTON — With Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, many in the D.C. area will soon start putting up Christmas lights — while some who annually erect huge, elaborate winter wonderland displays may ask, “What took so long?”
“It’s gotten a little crazy over the last few years,” said Purcellville, Virginia, resident Mark Mustacchio, whose family had started the tradition of putting together a synchronized Christmas lights display on and around their home on MacNaughton Court in the Wright Farm Estates neighborhood.
“We started out with your typical Home Depot stuff, or inflatables, and it escalated,” said Mustacchio. “We’ve got the roof lined with lights, and the big 20-foot tree in that front that spirals, and candy canes, dancing trees that change colors, and a life-size reindeer and nativity scene out front.”
The assembly process began in October, Mustacchio said.
“Off and on, it takes about three weeks, with three or four people on the roof,” he said. “I’ve got a big star on the roof that’s 40 or 50 feet high, and that takes some doing to get it up and mounted.”
The biggest time investment is in making sure the 30,000 lights work, in time with the music.
“It’s really a lot of wiring, and synchronizing everything,” said Mustacchio. “There’s probably about 10,000 feet of electrical cords out there.”
As anyone who has ever had to take down and restring lights because of an uncooperative bulb can attest, just turning a light switch to “On” isn’t a guarantee.
“We test everything ahead of time,” said Mustacchio. “We had to do a lot of extra cabling this year because a squirrel got in, and I had to rewire some things.”
Mustacchio said he has handmade many items in his display, preferring them to the newest high-technology options.
“This is probably an oxymoron, but I try not to go over the top,” he said. “I don’t want to be the guy that’s got a million lights everywhere, I try to keep it as traditional-looking as possible, and add the technology to make it a little more interesting.”
With so many bulbs, Mustacchio said, people often ask if his electricity bill skyrockets during the holidays.
“It’s actually surprisingly low — about $100 for the month,” he said. “They’re all LEDs, and because it’s a synchronized show, they’re on and off.”
Mustacchio said the light show is nightly, from 5 to 9 p.m., although the lights often stay on until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. The shows will run through New Year’s Day.
A large sign near the home instructs visitors to tune their car radio to 88.7 FM, to hear the music inside the car.
“We don’t have it loud enough so you can hear it from the street,” Mustacchio laughed. “We try not to be that much of a burden on the neighbors.”
Neighbors have, for the most part, been supportive of his yearly Christmas light extravaganza.
Last year, when the Mustacchio family returned from a dinner outing, a sign was posted in their front yard.
“I figured, ‘Oh boy, here we go, the HOA has a complaint,'” he recalled. “The sign said ‘First Place, Purcellville Trolley Tour.’
“That was a relief, to say the least.”
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