By Rich Place
For Jim Jozwiak, his abundantly decorated front yard and house are about much more than just a collection of lights community members experience each holiday season.
It’s about community. It’s about helping those in need. And it’s about his own life’s journey, most notably in the last couple years.
As surely as Christmas falls on Dec. 25, area residents annually can expect to see Jozwiak’s home — deemed Jozwiak’s Mill Street Light Show — decorated with thousands of lights synced to holiday music for a spectacular show. And through this weekend, visitors can donate food items to local pantries via a collection box at the front of the display.
Jozwiak first started going above and beyond traditional Christmas light decorating in 2005, when a handful of light displays were synced together from music played on a speaker. The display has grown annually in the dozen years since, most notably in 2009 by his purchase of a Light-O-Rama display with 16 channels and an FM transmitter. Now visitors are able to watch the show from their cars by tuning in to 90.5FM.
Last year, Jozwiak’s wife passed away and, with Christmas being her favorite holiday, the light show was in jeopardy. But instead, the light show has taken on a whole new meaning, most recently with the help of a new friend, Esther Conrad, whom Jozwiak met at the end of last winter.
A light show that Jozwiak said he started for his wife now includes her memory by way of a lit-up cross. In a sense, she’s now part of the display.
“The lights, to me, have different meanings,” he said. “One of them is in memory of my wife. The other thing is, of course, the food drive. That’s important to me because it helps so many people in the community.
“And it’s also nice to have somebody in my life that enjoys doing this, too,” he added about Conrad. “We kind of made it our show this year. The show is part of the community, it’s part of my wife who passed away and it’s part of Esther and I. This show has so many different meanings and things in the show have different symbols.”
Jozwiak said he and Conrad spent about four weekends in the fall in his heated garage, getting things ready to be set up. He estimated there were about 1,400 bulbs the pair had to replace to get all the lights operational again for this upcoming winter season.
“It was funny because (Esther) said she had never, ever changed a Christmas light before,” Jozwiak said with a laugh.
He said he estimates there are about 4,000 more lights this year than last year and he continues to add more LED lights for better energy efficiency. After all, he said, he’s bordering on having to go to a commercial electrical service in the winter.
Because Conrad loves to decorate, the pair changed a handful of items around in the front yard. Some colors were changed and some deer were moved, for example.
With a knowledge of electric — he has experience with construction — and a computer program similar to the one he uses for TNT Sound Systems, getting the lights operational and programmed is almost second nature. But it’s still time consuming, he said.
“Picture an Excel spreadsheet — that’s what it looks like,” he said about the programming.
His box out front to collect food items for local food pantries will be available until Sunday, Dec. 17 and he encourages donations. The display is scheduled to run daily from 5 to 11 p.m. through New Year’s, and then operate into January, weather permitting. The show is located at 14048 Mill St. in Springville.
For up-to-date info on the show and schedule, search “Jozwiaks Mill Street Light Show” on Facebook.