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Display Ideas for a Tricky Situation

Started by ControlsEE, January 30, 2021, 09:22:20 PM

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Hello All,

Just starting year 2 of pixels and now have been thrown a curveball. My wife and I are purchasing our first house! Very exciting! However, this new house isn't particularly situated for a good light show. In our current rental house, we were on a corner lot, along a moderately busy street and a very quiet one. We had a large side yard that allowed me to make a great show, partially due to the fact it was along the quiet street. Lots of people would see the display from the busy street and turn on the other street to park and watch a show or two. Actually was quite popular relative to my town's size.

That was this past year. For this upcoming year we will be at our new house. I knew before we put an offer in that it wouldn't work well, if at all for a Christmas light show. It was a conscious decision I made to risk not being able to do anything in order to get this house and property we really liked for a fantastic price. None the less, here is the exact situation (see the satellite view below if this doesn't make much sense). The house is a 1960's era split level facing west. The garage is pointed south. The street is running east-west, so if you haven't figured out already, this means the house DOES NOT face the street. The garage does. To make this better, the lot doesn't actually have any side along the street. The legal requirement for access is fulfilled by a driveway easement that runs due south out to the street, split between two other properties. This means that I don't actually own the driveway (for now) and there is no way to setup a display in a yard that is adjacent to the street.

Those are the negatives. The positives are that we will (soon) own a lot of 2.4 acres that are cleared of trees except for those surrounding the property. I've got 2.4 acres of grass. That said, your first though is probably "drive-though!" which would be awesome, however since this is our first house, we are trying to save as much as possible. My wife and I had already agreed on a slimmed down budget for this year's show before we started looking at houses, but I am doubting I will even get that, especially if I don't come up with some ideas soon. I have 3500 px currently and would need much more to make the area not look totally spaced too far apart. One snowflake every 100' would look pretty bad. I estimate that I would need at least 10,000 total pixels to make something like that work in a small scale and probably more like 50,000 to 75,000 if I wanted to make it somewhat full. I just don't have the budget for that.

One alternative is to run what I call a "Messick's Show." For those in East-Central PA, you may be aware that Messick's, the farm implement dealer, in Elizabethtown does a show every year. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, they have three or so parking "levels" in the field adjacent to their showroom. Viewers drive up and are directed into a spot on one of the parking levels, facing the show. After the show, they clear out all the cars and start parking all of those who pulled up after the show started (or waited in line as it's quite popular). Using this approach would allow me to use my current number of lights, though re-oriented for the new house. The issues are that it would take me out there directing traffic, probably getting some help too for traffic control. This would be crucial for the one-lane driveway that CANNOT be driven off of due to the easement agreement. I also used Remote Falcon this past year and it was really popular. I would like to use it again, but it would be almost impossible in this situation. Regardless of the solution, if it was something that required viewers to drive onto my property, there would need to be traffic control to make sure no one drives on the grass that is not ours.

I am open to ideas on how to make something like this work. See below to view a satellite view of the property and let me know if you have any ideas. If there's nothing, there's nothing. I just don't want to give up this hobby for the next 7-10 years, or until one of the neighbors sells, assuming we could pick up the property for an actual driveway we own.

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Looks like there is a farm on the other side of the road from your driveway.  Any chance you could work with the farmer to use a bit of the land adjacent to the road, for a show?  It would be convenient for setup and maintenance.

I'd also be worried about doing a drive-thru, with an easement.  Although you have use of it, I could see the neighbors complaining that it wasn't for that level of use, and is more commercial in nature... or something along those lines.  I've heard too many horror stories about easements.  

Spiker Lights house is below the grade of the road, so most of his display is on his roof.  Could you perhaps leverage doing something on top of your garage roof, that would be visible from the road?  Spiker has pretty dense stuff, so it is quite impressive.  It could be a short-term solution for you, until you get a better driveway situation.

With 2.4 acres, you could definitely have a great drive-thru.  I would definitely angle toward that in the long-run.


In life there are many decisions to be made.  20 yrs ago when I moved from the Chicago area to the Atlanta area having a space for a large home workshop was a big consideration, even for my wife.  The realtors could not believe that the first place we always looked was the basement (and it had to have a basement).  Walked away from some nice homes because of that.  This may be a case where the house and land is more important than having a show.  An option could be to see if there is another venue you could use to put up a show.  A number of folks have had to do that because their shows drew too much traffic and HOA or city or public safety issues caused them to have to shut down.  So they found another place to do the show.  Even Richard Holdman had to do that many, many years ago.  In your case your new location may be the cause to not have a show at your home.  I do know that if I was moving one of my big considerations would be putting on a display.  sigh
Jim Nealand
Kennesaw, GA all Falcon controllers, all 12v Master Remote Multisync with Pi and BBB P10 and P5


I like bigwavedave's idea of seeing if you can use a corner of the farm across the road.  It's close enough that you can easily get to it - and watch or at least monitor it from home.  You could also easily have connectivity for either running the show from a PC at home (via WiFi most likely) if needed or remote monitoring.

Depending on what you plan on doing with your two acres may have a big influence on a drive through show.
Using LOR (mostly SuperStar) for all sequencing - using FPP only to drive P5 and P10 panels.
My show website:



Thank you all for your input. JNealand actually reminded me that last year my church asked if I could throw something together for them. I didn't because they only gave me a month's warning. I should bring it up with the pastor again and see if they would be interested for this year. I will probably take this route for now, but if they are no longer interested, talk to the farmer about using their field after harvest this fall. I think until I own my driveway (and can make it 2 cars wide), I will have to hold off on using my own property unfortunately.


So quick update. The house just to the south of our property (which has part of the driveway easement) is going up for sale. We are considering offering to purchase the eastern most 20' of property from the current seller in order to gain total control of the driveway. If this is the case and we are able to successfully do this, what are everyone's suggestions on a display? Keep in mind that I do not have the budget for a large drive through, nor additional attendants to direct traffic.


Start by just doing a small show for yourself and friends you invite over.  That will allow you to see more of the possibilities for a show in the future.  Also consider how you might put in a large circular driveway in your lot that would allow for some parking without blocking ingress and egress of multiple vehicles.  Here is a view of a friends house who does a large show on a large lot.  The show is where the yellow is and the parking is within the red circle.
Jim Nealand
Kennesaw, GA all Falcon controllers, all 12v Master Remote Multisync with Pi and BBB P10 and P5


Thanks for the suggestions! A few new updates that may be toward the favor of a show. I got the full text of the easement that was declared when the lots surrounding it were split off. We have the east most 30' of one property for egress and ingress. I will have to talk to our lawyer, but that may allow us to expand the driveway to a two car wide drive, which would allow cars to pass both ways. The second item of news is that one of the three lots between us and the road recently had its house condemned and demolished. I talked to the property company that purchased it and they do not intend on building anything there as of yet. If its still vacant this October or November, I will be able to setup a show on the property line (about 40' from the road) which will be viewable from the road. I could ask them if its ok for me to setup on their property, but my biggest lesson learned from last year is that a show that is too close to the street is hard to view. Most people parked on the other side if the street this past year to view the whole thing.


Any chance you can get your neighbor, the owner of the land that you have an easement on, involved?  Going that close to their home with a lot of traffic could become a sore spot between you. If they are involved with the display, that would make a world of difference in how the traffic is received.
Sequencers: Vixen3 and xLights
Players: FPP and xSchedule Controllers:  Renards - SS24/SS16; E1.31 - San Devices E682 - Falcon F16, F4, F48 - J1Sys - DIYLEDExpress E1.31 Bridges.  Much more!


Quote from: algerdes on February 19, 2021, 07:52:06 AMAny chance you can get your neighbor, the owner of the land that you have an easement on, involved?  Going that close to their home with a lot of traffic could become a sore spot between you. If they are involved with the display, that would make a world of difference in how the traffic is received.
You know, that is actually a good idea. That property actually went up for sale yesterday, so I would have to talk to whoever buys it. The way the real estate market is around here, it should see a buyer by the end of the weekend, if it hasn't sold already.


So a bit of an update, the house for sale was purchased by a roofing company to house some of there migrant workers. They would definitely not care if there was a lot of traffic along our drive in the case of a drive through show. That said, I won't be able to expand my show much this year so I will be going with the show along the vacant lot. Should look really cool. Matrix and snowflakes mounted on the fence, trees just in front, arches on the top of the fence. Fairly 2 dimensional, but with only about 75' of road to park on, should still be pretty neat to look at.


Sounds like a great plan, and hopefully it will give you some time to keep exploring options!

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