NORMAN — For years, Chuck and Kimberli Downs decorated their east Norman house with a few, tasteful “and very simple” Christmas lights.
All that changed when Chuck Downs retired in 2007, and his engineering brain needed something to do.
So he took a few lights and added to them; and then added some more; and then some more. More than 280,000 lights later — or, if you're counting strands, more than 18 miles of them — light up the countryside at their home at 2900 72nd Ave. SE.
The Downs Family Light Ministry has become a Christmas tradition, not only for the family but for the hundreds of visitors the show attracts each year.
Visitors are invited to park, watch the show — which is synchronized to music that can be downloaded from iTunes — and simply enjoy. Donations of canned goods or cash are accepted but not required, and all donations go to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.
“Christmas memories are timeless, and we want to create special memories for our community,” Kimberli Downs said. “We don't really know why, but the combination of lights and music creates a lasting memory for everybody who has seen the display.”
She said the family also uses the light show as a ministry “and as a simple way to say thank you to the Lord. No amount of work on this display could ever compare to his sacrifice. What's a few lights compared to the gift of salvation?”
Last year, visitors donated 7,391 pounds of food and $37,208 in cash, Kimberli Downs said. “In total, this generated 270,066 meals for the hungry. We're hoping for another record-breaking year this year,” she said.
Every year, the show changes slightly, with different configurations and different songs. This year, Kimberli Downs said, “yard rings” were added to give more movement to the display.
Pre-staging, such as building the arches and preparing the mega-size tree strands begins in September. Outdoor setup begins around mid-October and takes about a month.
The large mega trees have 64 light strands, with each strand consisting of a red/green/blue three-strand set, totaling 192 strands. The trees are 70 feet tall.
Ten mini trees, which are 8 feet in height, have 12 strands of lights on each.
The display also features large leaping arches that are 20 feet long, with 16 channels. The small arches are 10 feet long, with eight channels.
More than 80 control boxes and 13 miles of extension cords are spread across the yard, Kimberli Downs said.
If you go
Christmas light show
What: Downs family light show
Where: 2900 72nd Ave. SE
When: Weather permitting, from 6 p.m. to midnight every night through Jan. 1.
Info: For a current playlist, go to www.