Extreme Lighting & Sound (ELS) recently wrapped up its first season presenting Holiday Wonders at Bowie Nature Park in Fairview, Tennessee. The dazzling drive-thru holiday light show featured atmosphere-generating effects from a large amount of Elation Professional lighting gear along with custom pixel products and proved a huge success.
ELS was approached by the city of Fairview in September to create and run the show after an initial contractor pulled out, which gave the design and production company only two short months to get everything together.
“We agreed to do the Christmas light show but knew we were on a tight schedule as opening day was scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving,” recalled ELS President, Austin Grundberg. “We basically put the whole show together in eight weeks from design, product specification/supply and setup to funding, ticket sales and promotion.” The “Holiday Wonders” show was an ELS production in partnership with the City of Fairview. Meeting such a tight schedule was even more impressive considering the company had other installs to take care of during that period.
ELS often handles other work for the city of Fairview and surrounding county, including a July Independence Day celebration, and were happy to take on the holiday project. Grundberg, who designed and programmed the show, sought to take the conventional Christmas display and blend it with an entertainment light show while adding in Disney-like projection mapping and animation elements. “Mixing those three elements together, we produced a unique show that wasn’t your traditional Christmas light show,” he said. “I think that was a big factor in its popularity.”
With such a short time frame to work under, ELS accessed their inventory of Elation lighting gear with a few supplement purchases such as 25,000 LED pixel lights. According to Grundberg, prep and programming took over 1,000 hours, including over 250 hours of animation. Load in and setup took eight workers two weeks to complete.
“Holiday Wonders” followed a loop just under a mile long, a short enough drive that allowed guests to loop through again and enjoy the show multiple times. “That was important as not only did people feel like they got their money’s worth, but they often said that they saw something different every time they went through,” said Grundberg who synced and time-coded the lighting to a 28-minute track of music, programming a number of individual areas as its own show.
Bowie Nature Park features a canvas of beautiful pine and oak forest and ELS used its inventory of 36 SixPar 200 IP colour changers to uplight the canopy. Besides lighting treetops, tree lines and branches in a host of holiday colours, the versatile six-colour Par lights also lit signage and entrance tents. Tree lines were also illuminated using 12 IP65-rated Paladin luminaires, all-weather strobe/wash/blinder lights that ELS acquired specifically for that purpose. “With their power, we could use them from longer distances to light huge areas,” Grundberg said.
ELS utilised its in-house fabrication shop to custom build pole mounts that they strapped onto trees 25 feet up and mounted with Proteus Rayzor 760, Artiste DaVinci and Platinum HFX moving heads, the latter two with vinyl rain covers. “These proved great as it allowed us to get moving light effects from high above,” Grundberg said. “It was a nice effect as people didn’t know where the light was coming from.”
A 33ft Christmas tree adorned with pixel lights formed the centerpiece of the show, a focus area that Grundberg complemented with a semi-circle of ground-based DTW Blinder 350 IP two-lites and Platinum Beam 5R Extremes, which the designer cleverly covered with vinyl pop-up green houses. “The DTW blinders gave a concert feel to the area while the Platinum 5R Beams made for some incredible beam looks,” he said. More Platinum Beam 5R Extremes and DTW Blinder 350 IPs worked from behind the main Christmas tree.
Lining four adjacent trees were compact Rayzor 360Z beam moving heads outfitted with rain covers while 18 Chorus Line 16 LED battens formed a tunnel of light. The show ended up using 100 moving lights with 91,648 channels of control.
Grundberg and his team worked extremely hard throughout the entire project, meeting and overcoming a host of challenges. The designer even taught himself animation in order to create and project dancing elves and singing snowmen onto holographic scrim. His favourite part of the experience he says however was the light show at the 33ft Christmas tree.
“It’s a nice blend of colourful pixels surrounded by Elation lights and made for a perfect focal point of the show,” he said before explaining one of his favourite looks. “There is one look during Amazing Grace, the show’s last song, where all of the 5Rs point straight up, which is really powerful that people loved. If it was cloudy or overcast the beams hit the cloud cover and you could see them from miles away.”
Despite rainstorms, thunderstorms and snowstorms – two in the show’s last week – Grundberg reports that they had very few problems with fixtures. “Honestly, with this many fixtures sitting exposed for 8 weeks, and many of them not IP65, we were expecting more products to go down but 99% of everything has made it.”
“Holiday Wonders” at Bowie Nature Park ran Thursday through Sunday nights from November 26 until January 9 and was well received by the community. “The city was excited to have their own holiday light show, and we were excited too. People were ecstatic with it and the turnout was huge,” Grundberg said, adding that people came from across the state to see it. “It was a real home run in our book.”
The designer concludes by saying they hope to work on the project again next year, albeit with a longer lead time. “Imagine if we had eight months to prepare instead of eight weeks,” he remarked.
With a complete event to put together and all on a tight schedule, Grundberg praised a dedicated team on site. “It takes a village, and we are grateful for all of you. My dad and business partner Glenn Grundberg for handling accounting, logistics, and ticketing; Vince Romanelli for all pixel content/programming; the city of Fairview (Richard, Brandy, Scott, Jesse, Todd, Keith, Justin) for allowing us to do the event and all their help and hospitality; the Simon family (Jessi, Mike, Jenni, Callie) for their help with social media, ticketing, and crowd control; and the ELS crew of David, Chad, Seth, Fernando, Clint, Alex, and Salty, and everyone else that helped out!”