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Gem of the Week: Dancing Light Show

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GRAFTON, ND (WDAZ)--It’s a display like none other in the Red River Valley.

He spreads Christmas cheer to hundreds of people of all ages--many of whom are people he has never met.

This light fanatic does it to keep his community shining bright--along with keeping a bright spot in his heart.

When night falls, cars slowly creep up on 425 West 15th Street in Grafton, to check out a vibrant spectacle.

“This is Christmas--this is what makes Christmas,” said Grafton resident, Mark Gourde.

Gourde is just one of the display’s many admirers.

“I always had Christmas lights, but I kind of stepped it up a little bit,” said Jim Desautel.

If you’re counting, Jim has 16 thousand lights--but if you want the full experience--you’ll also have to tune your radio to 88.3, and enjoy the show.

Over the course of 40 minutes, 14 songs rotate to make the light show come alive.

“Every event out there, I have broken it down to a 10th of a second,” said Jim.

The display’s lights measure up to a mile and a half long, and Jim has it down to a science--just 50 hours to set up--but putting them to music is a different story.

“Programming all these songs takes hundreds and hundreds of hours,” said Jim.

Jim said he’s not very tech-savvy, but stringing the light show together was pretty simple to figure out.

“I just googled it,” said Jim.

The light connoisseur’s passion for Christmas displays has a far brighter meaning than just spreading Christmas cheer throughout the Grafton community.

Jim’s father passed away on Christmas Eve, the year before he flipped the switch on the magical display, nearly a decade ago.

“He was really big into Christmas lights, and I just thought, what better way to memorialize him?”

A tradition that’s spreading.

“For a lot of people, this is their Christmas tradition now.”

Because of the time commitment required to set up the massive holiday display, Jim actually considered not putting the lights up a few years ago, but people in Grafton insisted the Christmas tradition had to continue.

“Once people in town started hearing that, they said, ‘No, you gotta keep going!’ It’s the people like that who motivate you to keep going--the little kid who comes up and says, ‘I like your lights.’”

Jim’s even received fanmail--like a letter that a second grader turned into her teacher.

“On her school paper, her favorite things about Christmas, and one of them was sitting in front of Jim and Nicole’s, watching the Christmas lights. That was pretty cool. That one really kind of sunk in, and that’s what makes it worthwhile.”

So no matter the frustrations...

“Every year, things are broken. Lights are broken, chords are broken, the maintenance--trying to get it all to work, and you go to plug it in and it doesn’t work, then you gotta figure out what fuse is blown, or what circuit is not working.”

Jim says there is no scrooge in him, and his house will be the shining star of the Red River Valley each Christmas.

“The next step after this I don't know, I have no more room for lights so I don't know what I'm going to do.”

Jim always has the lights up by Thanksgiving, and keeps them up through the first day of Epiphany, marking the end of the Christmas season, on January 6.

When asked about the size of his electric bill during the holiday season, Jim said, “We don’t talk about that.”