Dave Borchart's hobby is enjoyed by many
A drive past Dave and Robyn Borchart’s house in the town of Hudson has become a Christmas tradition for many of their friends and neighbors.
For that matter, a lot of people who have heard about the Christmas lights that dance to the music on their car radio make the trip to 780 Aldro Road.
Dave is the engineer behind the Light-O-Rama display, which each year grows a little more elaborate.
It started about 10 years ago when someone sent him an online link to video called “Wizards of Winter,” created by a man who put lights in motion to music played over an FM channel using the same Light-O-Rama software.
“I thought that was really cool. So I wanted to do it,” Dave explains.
His wife recalls Dave saying that he wondered how the fellow did it. Robyn figured Dave would investigate, find out, and that would be the end of it.
“Instead, he was like, ‘Would you mind if we bought some of those and give this a try?’ And then we just keep adding.”
Now the pressure in on to make each year’s show a little better than the last one.
“He’s pretty much thinking about it all the time – what he might add, the programming,” Robyn says good-naturedly. “He’s such a nerd that he went to a training workshop on how to do this last year.”
“I wanted to see if I could get any pointers,” Dave explains with a grin. “It was worthwhile. It was a nerdy Saturday afternoon.”
Dave comes by his interest naturally. The Menasha native graduated from UW-Platteville with a degree in industrial engineering.
He’s now an advanced manufacturing engineer in the Fall Protection Division at Honeywell Inc. He designs the harnesses that workers wear when they are high above the ground, so they don’t hit it if they slip.
Dave purchased the Light-O-Rama software and controllers used to create the display.
The software is on a laptop computer next to a picture window in the Borcharts’ living room. The computer is connected wirelessly to controllers in the front lawn that turn strings of lights on and off, as programmed by Dave.
It takes dozens extension cords to complete the set-up, which Dave begins working on in October when the weather is warmer.
The music is broadcast through an extremely low-powered transmitter. The signal carries only 100 feet, so there is no concern about interfering with radio stations.
Dave loads the music into the Light-O-Rama program and then decides what lights to turn on and off in time to the music. With the advent of LED lights, he can also make some turn colors, or shimmer, or come on at half-strength.
“It comes down to whatever I think,” he says of the programming. “And then I run it by my family to see what they think, and they tell me if it sounds good. Or they don’t have a clue about what I’m talking about, and I do it anyway.”
This year’s musical selections are “Fireflies” and “A Christmas Canon” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and “Christmastime Again” by Extreme.
Robyn teases Dave some about his hobby, but is supportive.
She says it makes it easy to buy birthday presents for him, and it keeps him off the street.
“I get the questions when I am down at school. Are your the lights up yet? Are you doing lights again this year? And then I come home and apply the pressure,” Robyn says. She volunteers at St. Patrick School, where their daughter Samantha is in the fourth grade.
Sam and her older sister, Dani (Danielle), a junior at Hudson High School, both approve of their dad’s hobby, too.
“It’s really cool,” Dani says. “All my friends know about it and will stop by during the (holiday season).”
“It’s fun. It’s cool. It’s different. Not a lot of people do it,” Dave says of his reasons for continuing the show.
The 12-minute show runs nightly from 5 to 10 p.m. through the weekend after New Year’s Day. Aldro Road intersects with Hwy. 12 between the Exit 4 businesses and County UU.
The Borcharts’ home is a couple of blocks west of Hwy. 12.