For a list of active Christmas lights attractions, check out our Champaign-Urbana Area Christmas Lights Guide sponsored by Brixx Pizza.
By Kelly Youngblood
One of the best holiday attractions in the Champaign-Urbana area is taking a hiatus this year.
Victor Johnson, the man behind Lighting Up Paxton, The Johnson Christmas Display, won’t be offering his spectacular light show this Christmas season.
The time commitment the display requires is the main reason for the much-needed break. It takes a year-long effort to keep it going!
We spoke to Victor recently to find out more about his decision, and asked him the question many people are wondering: Will the display be back next Christmas?
How many years have you done the BIG light display? Is this the first time you’ve taken a hiatus?
I have done a display synchronized to music for four years, since 2011. Before that the display was still big by most standards, but nowhere near as technical and labor intensive as the music synchronization is now. It was only made up of 25,000 lights back then, compared to the 140,000 it was last year.
Before the display was synchronized to music I did take a year off in 2007 and again in 2010. I was a student at the University of Illinois during that time and couldn’t free up my schedule to come home and work on the display.
Why are you taking a break this year? When did you decide you needed one?
The display is not just a November and December effort, it takes time throughout the entire year to synchronize new music, as well as fix lights and make new elements. I mention that because it’s the time commitment that is most difficult to handle and the main reason I decided to take a break this year.
Last year brought a large number of technical issues with light controllers that constantly needed my attention. Bad winds in January also tore apart quite a few of my light strings before I could take them down. With all of these extra problems, combined with work obligations and taking on some house renovation projects, I knew a break was in order by the time I had the lights finally packed away in March.
How has the reaction from the community been since you announced your decision?
I believe most people understand the amount of effort it takes and are very thankful for it, especially those who have known of the display long before I ever added music. However, there are some who are really disappointed. Christmas lighting has always been just a hobby of mine, so other things get my attention first if they are more important.
Are you surprised by how much attention your Christmas tradition has garnered? Would you like to say anything to your “fans”?
I am shocked by how quickly the following has grown in the last couple of years. I have even received messages from people in other countries who have seen the display online and taken inspiration from my work to light up their own homes.
Everyone who follows the display should know I appreciate their support and making the trip to see the lights. Just because there aren’t any lights up this year doesn’t mean I’ve taken a break from Christmas. I’m still active on my Facebook page and YouTube, sharing ideas, tips, as well as other places to go in central Illinois to see synchronized light displays.
Will you back next year?
I sure hope so, but can’t say 100 percent for sure. There is a lot to accomplish before I even get back to fixing things from last year. I can promise that I miss the display more than anyone and really want to get back to this hobby of mine. I have big ideas in store for the next display. With any luck I’ll be able to find time to get to work on them. In the meantime there are many other displays in central Illinois that are deserving of a visit. I have a list of many of them on my website, along with links to my Facebook page and past videos.