New to the “scene,” this Champaign home – complete with a Christmas Lights Show synced to music plus dozens of holiday-themed inflatables – will put any Grinch in the holiday spirit. Guaranteed.
by Laura Weisskopf Bleill
Justin Deruchie loves the lights.
That has to be the explanation for why the self-proclaimed geek has spent more hours than he could ever count – along with his wife Sherry, aka “Mrs. Claus” – on creating a 10-song synchronized musical Christmas lights show at his Champaign home.
Deruchie’s show, Manchester Christmas, is lit up at the corner of Manchester Drive and Amherst in the Glenshire subdivision in southwest Champaign. Located right off Staley Road, it’s difficult to miss — and hard to forget.
“For us, Christmas is about spending time with family but this year’s Covid restrictions have made that a little challenging,” said Deruchie. “It’s also about spreading joy. Watching people light up brighter than the display when they stop by makes all the effort so worthwhile.”
The Manchester Christmas show includes bells, trees, candy canes, and so much more – with the lights dancing to music. (Check it out, and it’s easy to see why it’s landed on the chambanamoms.com annual Amazing Christmas Lights Around Champaign-Urbana list; find more Champaign-Urbana area synchronized lights/mega displays there.)
While they aren’t new to a big lights display, this is actually the first time the Deruchies have put the show to music, thanks to the gift of an FM transmitter from a family member. And they didn’t just put one or two songs to music – they went with 10.
“Mr. Claus has a background in electrical engineering and Mrs. Claus is a software engineering manager for a company out of New York,” Deruchie said. “Geeks + Christmas spirit = mega light display!”
It’s not just the flashing lights that will delight viewers. The property has more than 80 inflatables, and some of the inflatables move. There’s Mickey, Olaf, Yoda, Rudolph and so much more.
“Mrs. Claus tried to convince Mr. Claus to hire some help this year, but most of the work is design work and Mrs. Claus nagging and complaining about where inflatables should be positioned,” he said with a laugh. “We usually take the four days around Thanksgiving to set it all up outside.
“We spend other time throughout the year creating modular structures to make it easier the next year or working with the software to animate the sequences. I’m scared to add up all the hours that go into this!”
That work has certainly paid off, and the beneficiaries are those who make the trek to see the show. It might take a few visits to watch the entire display and enjoy all of the songs, which range from traditional Christmas melodies to pop culture favorites.
There’s a Frozen segment (we particularly enjoyed Do You Want to Build a Snowman) as well as Star Wars tunes. To get a taste of the show, see the video below.
Be sure to tune your radio to 93.9 to hear the music; Mrs. Claus’ voice pops into the show intermittently, about every three songs, to say hello and give a few instructions.
(Namely, please turn off your headlights and don’t block the neighbors driveways or mailboxes.)
“Star Wars is Mr. Claus’ favorite. Mrs. Claus’ favorite this year is Little Drummer Boy. This was one of her father’s favorite carols and he passed away this year,” Justin Deruchie said. “We try to pick a mix of songs – some for the little ones, some for the bigger kids (adults). We’re hoping visitors will vote for their favorite song on the website so we can pick songs the community enjoys.”
Deruchie and his wife live in Champaign with their furkids (pets). Although both are Canadian, they actually met right here in Champaign in 2008, but later moved to the Quad Cities.
That’s where the Christmas lights story begins, but thankfully for Champaign-Urbana, not where it ends. They moved back to Champaign this summer.
“We had left for a job opportunity and really missed our friends here in Champaign-Urbana and all the area has to offer,” Justin said. “We got back as soon as we could!”
Moving to another house – Christmas show in tow – was a bit tricky. Before buying the house, they checked with the HOA to make sure there weren’t any restrictions on decor.
Storage space was a huge consideration while house hunting; their new Champaign house has a shed in the backyard and a three-car garage. Not surprisingly, they built a storage shelf structure inside the garage to organize everything.
“It also has columns on the porch – like our last house. At our last house, we had built some u-shaped, vertical modular column structures and strung lights to them so we can just slip them over the porch columns and zip-tie them,” Deruchie said. “This way, we don’t have to wind lights every year. The modular structures fit over the columns of the new house – so it’s a time savings.”
The neighbors have been nothing but gracious about the newest neighborhood attraction.
And many of them have been promoting the show on social media.
“We chatted with a couple neighbors while setting up and asked them to let us know if the lights are too much,” Deruchie said. “So far, everyone’s been smiling when they walk by. We recorded a message for our animated show asking visitors to keep our neighbors’ driveways clear. Hopefully, the display only brings joy.”
Thinking about setting up your own synchronized musical Christmas lights show? We asked Justin Deruchie if he has any tips for those who want to get into the action.
- The most complex part is probably ensuring you have enough power and you’re not overloading a circuit. Using a watt meter and understanding how many strands of light you can string together is important.
- If you have the storage space, making modular things like window frames or porch column wraps that can pop on and off makes things much quicker to put up once they’ve been constructed and strung with lights.
- Most big displays are a culmination of purchases year-after-year. It’s easiest to add to your display when everything goes on sale after Christmas. You don’t get to enjoy them until the following year, but you can save quite a bit!
If you go:
WHAT: Manchester Christmas synchronized lights display
WHERE: 1411 Manchester Drive, Champaign (near the corner of Staley and Kirby).
WHEN: Animation is on Sun-Thurs 5:30-8:30 pm and Friday/Saturday 5:30-9:30 pm. Tune your radio to 93.9! It’s already live. You can find more on the manchesterchristmas.com website.
Want more lights? Check out our Central Illinois Christmas Lights Trail.
We want to see your lights pics! Tag #ChambanaLights on Instagram or Twitter.
What displays or neighborhoods have we missed? Let us know in the comments or email us – firstname.lastname@example.org.
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