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Teen's Light Display Shows Kirkwood Spirit

Luke Backer spends hours every year decorating his family's home for Christmas.

When Luke Backer was 2 years old he sat on Santa’s lap and asked for a green extension cord for Christmas.

Now the sophomore uses some 800 feet of extension cords to run an over-the-top synchronized light show that stops traffic outside his home on Cranbrook Drive.

Backer, 16, has been helping his parents light up their home since he was just 3 or 4 years old. By the time he was in fifth grade, he was handling the decorating himself.

He stuck to the typical multi-colored lights strung along the gutters and around the windows for a few years. Then he figured out how to synchronize his display to music and rigged up a loudspeaker in the yard. Last year he began broadcasting the music over an FM frequency so visitors could tune in from their cars.

“I just researched it,” Backer said. “I’d seen it done before and it just interested me.”

This year he doubled his show, spending hours synchronizing some 6,700 lights to flash in time to a four-minute version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” using a 16-channel light controller hooked up to a computer in his garage.

He installed two 15-amp breakers and outlets in the garage to handle the load because last year’s display caused the lights inside his house to flicker and the dishwasher to falter.

“My granddad taught me how to install breakers and outlets, so it’s pretty easy for me,” he said. “I know a lot about sound and lights from running plays at ”

Backer, a defensive tackle on the junior varsity football team, pumped up the show with Kirkwood spirit, adding the high school fight song as the finale. Visitors can tune in to 88.5 FM to get the full effect.

Backer has long been mechanically minded, his mother said.

“I remember reading him that Magic School Bus electricity book over and over until I couldn’t read it any more – I had to hide it,” she said.

“In first grade he built a generator for the Kirkwood Science Fair and he won a blue ribbon for it,” she said. “He went on to the Greater St. Louis Science Fair and won a blue ribbon there, too. “

Now his flashing red-and-white light show is stopping traffic.  In fact one young visitor was so impressed when she “saw Luke’s lights on the radio,” she proclaimed him “an artist of lights,” Julie Backer said.

Luke Backer said his friends just roll their eyes and say, “You couldn’t just have normal Christmas lights, could you?”

“But they enjoy it and they bring their parents over,” he said. “I did it for me just because I thought it would be fun, but it’s kind of nice to see other people enjoy it too.”

Melissa Ewen December 21, 2011 at 04:54 PM
Very cool. We drive by every year.
Laura Hazan December 21, 2011 at 05:29 PM
A work of art! I see a "bright" future for Luke :)

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