It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Jacksonville thanks to Darren Huffty, whose over-the-top animated light display can bring out the child in anyone. You could say that, at age 56, Huffty is a big little boy. His face lights up and his feet tap energetically when he talks about animated reindeer and snowmen that swing and sing to “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” in his front yard at 10580 Crystal Springs Road.
“The family calls me Clark,” he says, referring to the Clark Griswold character in the 1989 movie, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” “This is my fun.”
By day, Huffty is the director of software and services implementation for ADP. Nearly all his nights, weekends and annual bonuses are dedicated to the Christmas display, which includes 3.6 miles of light strings, 2,500 feet of network cable, 9,080 feet of extension cord, and more than 16,000 channels of intelligent LED lights.
The light strips are synchronized to music through a personal computer, animating the wire-framed trees, candy canes, bells, angels, snowmen and reindeer that have taken over his yard and roof top. To power the display, Huffty has added 200 amps to the front of his house. How does this all add up? He pays an extra $200, or so, for his electric bill during the holidays.
The effort paid off big time last year, when Huffty won the Great Christmas Light Fight, an ABC contest that drew nearly 7 million television viewers and a $50,000 prize. As a result, he had to hire off-duty police officers to help control traffic the week of Christmas.
“There were cars as far as the eye could see,” Huffty says, noting there were sometimes as many as 120 spectators outside his house. “My neighbors have never said a word.”
Growing up in West Texas, Huffty said he’d always been captivated by bright outdoor Christmas displays.
“My dream as a child was to have the house with the most lights,” he says.
A consummate do-it-yourselfer, Huffty learned from online forums on PlanetChristmas.com and keeps up with the latest in dramatic effects by attending annual Christmas Expos. The set up requires help from his father, grown children and other family members.
Most importantly, the Christmas display is Huffty’s way of spreading joy during the holidays.
“To me it’s the purpose of Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ,” he says. “When I see kids outside dancing and families enjoying themselves, that’s all the reward I need.”
For more information, visit christmasoncrystalsprings.com
The display is free, but the Huffty family accepts donations for Operation Homefront. Huffty’s Christmas music and holiday messages are broadcast on 103.9 FM. Visitors may want to park at the shopping center on the corner of Chaffee Road and Crystal Springs Road and walk a block on the sidewalk to the Huffty house.