Photo by Hubble Ray Smith.
KINGMAN – Dave and Marilyn Preston finally made the cut. It only took three years and another 100,000 or so Christmas lights.
The Prestons’ 6,500-square-foot home at 661 Shadow Mountain Drive has been a holiday favorite in Kingman for about 20 years, attracting hundreds of visitors to the brilliant display that can be seen at night from almost anywhere in the city.
Their incredibly decorated home that illuminates the Cerbat foothills is now going to be featured on national television when ABC airs its hit holiday decorating competition, “The Great Christmas Light Fight,” at 7 p.m. Dec. 5.
The TV crew spent four days in Kingman in early October filming the home and interviewing the Prestons.
They’ve been applying to the show for the last three years, and were selected from more than 500 competing homes, said Dave Preston, who moved to Kingman from Ohio in 1987 and founded Preston Investments.
“I kept stepping it up,” the retired financial advisor said during a tour of his home. “The first two years, I guess I didn’t have enough lights, apparently. I sent in drone footage and I think that got me on the program.”
Preston said he owned three homes in Ohio and never decorated any of them, but his wife noticed hooks for hanging Christmas lights when they bought their Kingman home.
“She started this monster,” Preston said. “I always tease her over the electric bill. It’s about $700 for six weeks.”
The project began with a couple strings of colored lights and grew more elaborate over the years, Preston said as he explained the intricacies of the setup.
He’s got more than 250,000 LED lights running off 57 circuit boxes with 16 pigtail connections in each box for a total of 912 circuits, all operated by a computer program that synchronizes the light show to music. If you visit the home, tune in to 91.7 FM to hear the songs.
Traffic was bumper to bumper for three hours on Christmas Eve and Christmas last year, Preston said.
“Some people come back over and over. Every time you come, you see something you didn’t see the first time,” he said.
It takes Preston and his right-hand man, Bruce Gray, about a month to install the lights and decorations. They worked eight to 10 hours a day.
“Lots of time involved. I only had 30 days to get it up,” Preston said. “As soon as I realized I was going to be on the program, I upped the ante. First I added 16 more tunnel arches in the driveway. We went from two-color arches to four colors on each arch wrapped with six strings of red, blue, green and white.”
Each string of lights is linked to the computer, which runs a matrix on the Light-O-Rama Visualizer program.
“When it comes on, that’s how I get the chasing effect that appears as the arches move down the driveway,” Preston said.
Preston said his neighbor, Bruce Ricca, was also instrumental in motivating him to decorate.
“People think we compete, but far from it. He does his thing and I do mine. He just has never gone over the top like me,” Preston said.
Preston estimates he’s spent in excess of $100,000 on the fixtures, lights, wiring, computer and everything else that goes into putting up such an elaborate display. He traveled to Michigan one year to buy a Santa Claus hanging from a rope for $3,000 at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland.
The nativity scene is the centerpiece of the yard display, along with Santa Claus and his reindeer, a lighted poinsettia and polar bears.
“All these fixtures can be expensive,” he said. “LED lights save on the electric bill, but you’ve got to withstand the sticker shock because they’re not cheap.”
But it’s worth it, Preston added. He gets “thank you” notes, cards, emails and phone calls from people telling him how much they appreciate his work.
He once made a house call to a terminally ill client and before he left, the person asked if he was going to put up his lights again.
“I said, ‘Of course,’ and she said, ‘Good because I enjoy them every year and this will be the last year I see them again.’ As long as my health holds up, I’ll continue to do it,” Preston said. “That’s the key because it’s a lot of work.”