Family gets into the Christmas spirit
November 30, 2009
SALINEVILLE — If you find yourself on McGavern Road, you can’t miss the Barman residence. The glow in the distance from 16,000 Christmas lights gives it away.
Kevin A. Barman is the man behind the computer-controlled Christmas display of LED lights, ornaments and music on display outside his home at 19751 McGavern Road.
“I love Christmas lights. I always have,” Barman said, in what has to be one of the great understatements of all time.
Barman and his wife, Gretchen, along with their combined family of six children, moved in 2007 to the home located about a half mile off state Route 39. Barman grew up in a family that loved to celebrate Christmas and hang outside decorations and lights, and he wanted to carry on that tradition with his family.
So in 2008, Barman started big, with a display that consisted of 7,500 flashing lights and a 10-foot Christmas tree. He more than doubled that this year, adding 8,500 lights, two six-foot Christmas trees and 21 lighted candy canes, going from 16 channels to 32 channels. Each channel controls a series of lights.
The display is run by a software program on his laptop computer that has the lights synchronized to flash in time with Christmas songs that can be heard by tuning in 107.3 FM on a car radio while driving by. Barman is able to use the radio frequency without obtaining a license because his broadcast is less than one watt in power.
“From Nov. 28 until Jan. 1, the radio station belongs to me,” he said. The broadcast range is 300 to 500 feet.
As to be expected, setting up the display is very labor intensive, but fortunately Barman’s wife and children — who range in age from 8 to 15 — get into it as much as he does, so he has a labor pool from which to draw.
Work began the first week of November. There are 6,000 lights alone strung along the roof, hung from 890 plastic clips “and lots of zip ties,” Gretchen said.
It also takes Barman hours to program the computer to synchronize the Christmas songs with the flashing lights.
“You have to listen to the music and tell the computer when the lights are to come on and when they are to go off,” he said.
The current program consists of five songs and lasts about 16 minutes, but Barman plans to incorporate about 10 more songs in the weeks leading up to Christmas, extending the broadcast to about 45 minutes — the same as last year.
Doubling the size of the display this year probably costs about $1,000.
“I told (Gretchen) I want to double it every year, but she’s kind of reining me in on that,” Barman said.
The family is comfortable with the notoriety the display has brought.
“Last year, we became known around town as the people on the hill with the Christmas lights,” Gretchen said.
The display will be on from 6-11 p.m. weekdays and until midnight on weekends through New Year’s. Barman encourages the public to stop by and pull in his driveway to watch.
“Times are tough, and if someone gets a smile out of this then it’s worth it,” he said.