Former Airmen keep family tradition alive with annual light show

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs Office

Bright lights glisten in the dark of the night outside multiple homes in Altus, Okla. One light display, owned by the Hargis family, offers a unique opportunity for community members to celebrate the holidays together.

Chris Hargis, the 97th Air Mobility Wing community support coordinator, and Gail Hargis, the 97th AMW chief of protocol, have shared their holiday spirit with the community of Altus for the past 14 years through an extravagant light display in the front yard of their home.

Today, the “Hargis Holiday Lights” is a computer-controlled display which includes 70,000 bulbs, 8,100 different frequency channels and nearly 70 different handmade wooden props. In total, this amounts to a four-hour light show which runs from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Eve every year.

The light display is unique because nearly 90% of the props used during the show are handmade by the Hargis family. Using wood, metal and other building materials, Chris, Gail and their two children built the majority of light elements and continue to add new display items every year.

“This is special to us because everything is handmade,” said Gail. “Everything on the roof, to anything animated has all been built by us. Over the years we have accumulated quite a few props, and each one is different so it really makes the show unique.”

But this family tradition was not always this way. Ever since Chris was young, hanging Christmas lights has always been a passion of his. While growing up, he remembers a house in his neighborhood he would always visit that had an extravagant light display.

“Everybody went to this house to see the Christmas lights, and it was the most amazing thing for me at the time,” he said. “Ever since that moment, I knew I wanted to create a display like that.”

As years passed, the memory of that light display stuck with him and he soon began the process of creating his own light show in 2005, with only three light controllers, a welder and a few hundred bulbs. The process of programming the lights to music began while he was deployed to Korea later that year. The building process began when he returned to the states.

“We started as soon as we bought a house in Alabama. We began to build a light display and it has been growing ever since,” he said. “Now it is a passion of mine, and a hobby I look forward to every year.”

During his down time, Chris would program light channels on his computer to match different songs.

“This was indeed a tedious process,” he said. “Because of the amount of lights and precise synchronization required to match the music, programing one minute of a song would take roughly five hours to complete.”

Synchronizing one song to lights equates to 80 hours of work. The light show has grown from three songs when it first began in 2005, to 19 songs today.

“It is a very long and detailed process. If you are off by even one millisecond, music synchronization will be off,” he said. “Each individual pixel of light is on three channels, and you can use those channels to create two million different colors and patterns. There are a lot of steps involved, but the work is worth it in the end.”

Additionally, the Hargis family works closely with Jim and Melinda Bautista, founders of the Sheridan’s Sunshine Foundation, to raise awareness for childhood cancer by raising funds to research a cure. All of their donations from the light display go to this charity.

“We actually go out and physically collect money on Christmas Eve, but it is not for us to keep,” said Chris. “We advertise and collect money for Jim and his family to help raise awareness for childhood cancer and everything we collect goes right back to them. This is something I’ve realized the community has come to enjoy and that’s why I continue to do it.”

The Hargis Family suggests to anyone interested in learning more to visit their Facebook page here.