By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Brian Wagner had a dream. He wanted to be able to see his house from the Casper Mountain lookout point at Christmas.
That’s why every year his Christmas light display gets bigger and brighter. The Wagner house at 3148 Whispering Springs is one of the must-see stops on any local holiday lights tour.
“We are currently running approximately 45,000 lights,” Wagner told Cowboy State Daily, “which is 20,000 more than the Griswolds,” referring to the accident-prone family from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” starring Chevy Chase.
The display, which will run every evening until the new year, begins at 5:30 p.m. and ends at 11. Passersby can tune their car radios to 98.1 FM and enjoy the choreographed lights, which are synchronized to more than 35 holiday songs.
Bigger Is Better
A transplant from New York, Wagner said that on one of the family’s first Christmases after they moved to Casper, his wife took him by a house on Kelly Drive that was totally decked out with Christmas lights, complete with synchronized music.
“They were the place to be back then,” said Wagner. “So, with me being from New York, everything is bigger and brighter there, so I had to go bigger than anyone else in the area.”
Although the light show at their current home is beyond impressive, the first Wagner light display was created at their home on E. 14th in 2005.
“They were not synced to music,” he said. “We started the first light show at our house on Lexington Ave.”
The crowds followed the family to their home on Whispering Springs, which they moved into nine years ago. And so far, the neighbors don’t seem to mind the extra traffic during the holidays.
“They are cool with the display, I think, as long as nobody blocks their driveway,” said Wagner.
And while Wagner said he doesn’t know exactly how many people stop for the show, it’s enough to catch the attention of local law enforcement.
“One Christmas Eve, Casper police were directing traffic at the end of our road,” he said.
Adding Something Every Year
Since building their current home on Whispering Springs, the Wagner light display has only gotten more elaborate.
“We use the Light-o-Rama program and relays,” Wagner explained. “There are a total of 80 relays that we program the lights to.”
Wagner said they use more than 75 extension cords, but because they use mostly LED lights the display draws no more electricity than using an air-conditioning unit in the summer.
And Wagner said he doesn’t worry about running out of light bulbs.
“We have 75 or more brand new boxes of lights, so if any go dead we just replace them,” he said.
Wagner added that they try to add some new component each year, although the changes aren’t always noticeable.
“The last couple years we upgraded the music equipment,” he said. “We added a mix board to help improve sound quality, a new FM transmitter, wireless mics for Santa and wireless in ear monitoring.”
They’ve added a holiday as well – the Wagners have a fully synchronized display dedicated to the spookiest night of the year.
“We do a Halloween light display with singing pumpkins that lip sync to the music,” said Wagner. “Halloween this year we had about 400 kids.”
But the Wagners have branched out and made their holiday light show something more than just decorations.
“Santa has been surprising visitors for about five years,” said Wagner.
And the family is using the attention it gets from the gigantic light display to help others in the Casper community. In 2010, the family began using the attention garnered by their light display to collect nonperishable goods for a local food pantry.
“On Christmas Eve we will have a food drive for Joshua’s Storehouse,” said Wagner. “And we will hand out candy canes and possibly have a visit from Santa.”
He said they’ve collected well over 1,000 pounds of food for the charity over the years, and Wagner said he’s served three years on the board for the food pantry.
“I wanted to give something back to the community,” he said.
The Wagners have created a dedicated Facebook page for the light show.