West Seattle Christmas lights: A show with a soundtrack

Wise holiday decorators are getting their lights up early – who knows how many more mostly dry days you’ll see before Christmas? Putting them up early, however, is one thing – planning your display for months, another. But that’s the story behind the lights-synchronized-to-music display in that real-time video shared by Jim Winder – who worked at the home of friends to make The Helmstetler Family Holiday Spectacular happen at 3908 SW Charlestown (across from the water tower; here’s a map). The video clip is just ONE song – Jim says it’s a six-song set Sundays-Thursdays, 6-8 pm, and they’re planning between 10 and 15 on Fridays and Saturdays, 5-9 pm. Go watch the show — and listen to the soundtrack on 101.9 FM — and you’ll find out from Santa and elves just how many lights this took (Jim does reveal there’s ONE MILE of extension cords involved, with “56 individual channels controlled by my laptop”). As impressive as the video seems, Jim insists, “It is MUCH better in person. The video does not do it justice at all. I use all LED lights, and they are quite vivid.” Thanks, Jim, for sending early word of this seasonal show; we’re spotlighting Christmas lights every night – you can send your own photos/video OR let us know where to find photogenic lights to photograph ourselves (here’s all the ways to connect with WSB) – and will keep a running list of addresses on the West Seattle Holidays page.

62 Replies to "West Seattle Christmas lights: A show with a soundtrack"

  • shane November 30, 2009 (7:20 pm)

    After spending all day glued to the news, I needed that! Thanks

  • star 55 November 30, 2009 (7:39 pm)

    WOW!! I guess my one strand of lights won’t make the best of the best on the blog. Thanks for sharing.

  • coffee November 30, 2009 (8:11 pm)

    That is ONE technical elf if you ask me!

  • Smitty November 30, 2009 (8:19 pm)

    Saw (and listened) to this the other night – very cool!

    Nice work, and THANK YOU!

  • Cheryl November 30, 2009 (8:25 pm)

    Fantastic! I can’t wait to see it in person.

  • debi verwers November 30, 2009 (8:29 pm)

    It is way better in person and I hear on weekends they may be handing out candy canes!! I Love Your Lights!!! (Oma)

  • The Velvet Bulldog November 30, 2009 (8:43 pm)

    Let me first say that this is amazing and I can’t even fathom the work that went into this. I am wondering however, if the neighbors were clued into what was coming?

  • mark November 30, 2009 (8:45 pm)

    That’s amazing@!!!!!

  • shelly November 30, 2009 (8:50 pm)

    WHOA! I can hardly wait to take my kids to this one! Thanks for sharing.

  • Mags November 30, 2009 (8:50 pm)

    Actually, we drove by it tonight and it hurt my eyes!

  • JAM November 30, 2009 (8:52 pm)

    This is so awesome! We went by tonight and experienced the holiday magic (in the words of my son). Brought both my parents and my kids – truly a family moment enjoyed by all. Thank you!

  • SomeGuy November 30, 2009 (8:57 pm)

    Makes Clark W. Griswold look like a total chump.

  • Batgurrl November 30, 2009 (8:57 pm)

    oh my.. we have to go see this. I have been a fan of West Seattle Xmas lights since the 60s when we went by the folks who made bread (was that the Gai’s) house sort of in the same area.

    What a technical marvel. Many smiles for all.

  • Robert2715 November 30, 2009 (9:18 pm)

    We drove by around 5 PM tonight… didn’t understand what the big deal was… Ooops.

  • miws November 30, 2009 (9:25 pm)

    FTW! :cool:



  • WTF November 30, 2009 (9:51 pm)

    That kicks ass. Great job! Made our day. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • WTF November 30, 2009 (9:51 pm)

    That kicks ass. Great job! Made our day. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • ellenater November 30, 2009 (10:24 pm)

    thanks so much. I needed that. can’t wait to see it in person!!

  • Jim December 1, 2009 (6:55 am)

    To the person who drove by at 5:00pm…the “shows” don’t start until 6:00pm. At 5:00pm, the lights are just “on” and there is just random Christmas music playing…
    And I also remember the lights at the Gais’ house. My Grandparents lived just down from them on 35th, so we always went to see their lights. I am sure they were a BIG part of my Christmas Light enthusiasm today!! And yes…most of the neighbors were clued in.

  • Jim December 1, 2009 (7:07 am)

    For the best view, bring a portable radio and stand up next to the water tower!!! (weather permitting of course)

  • MsKayJ December 1, 2009 (7:38 am)

    Holy Cow!!! That is truly amazing. We will be visiting family and will definitely be bringing our daughter to see this display! Any chance it causes seizures? lol!

  • Meghan December 1, 2009 (7:45 am)

    Very cool! Things like this do more for community and holiday spirit than people even realize.

  • Robert December 1, 2009 (8:47 am)

    I knew this seemed familiar…


  • Steve December 1, 2009 (9:06 am)

    “Wizards In Winter” is pretty much a standard song most Animated Light shows use…do a search on Google or YouTube and you will find hundreds…

  • 35this35mph December 1, 2009 (9:06 am)

    Outtathisworld! The Christmas corrolary to Halloween’s Skeleton Theater!

  • Bettytheyeti December 1, 2009 (9:38 am)

    Most excellent! There should be a crowd this dry evening.

  • sun*e December 1, 2009 (9:39 am)

    That is so Awwwwwsome! I can’t wait to see it live. Thanks for all of your hard work in making such a spectacular show for all of us to enjoy. :)

  • YourNeighbor December 1, 2009 (10:00 am)

    That looks great but I’m just kidding I’m not your neighbor; hope they’re ok with all the traffic you’re going to see! Way to get in the spirit we need more people like you in West Seattle!

  • alywest December 1, 2009 (2:26 pm)

    Trans Siberian Orchestra!!!!
    wonderful music and light show…taking the kids tonight!

  • Mary December 1, 2009 (3:12 pm)

    Amazing…loved it! Thanks for all of your hard work in putting up this wonderful holiday show!

  • Cheryl (friend of Debi's) December 1, 2009 (3:33 pm)

    Great job, Jim! Have you checked out the hits on YouTube? 5,198,513 as of 3:30pm Tuesday Dec 1st. That’s amazing!

  • Cheryl December 1, 2009 (3:35 pm)

    Great job, Jim! Have you checked out the hits on YouTube – 5,198,513…amazing!

  • Mary December 1, 2009 (3:36 pm)

    Wonderful show!

  • Smitty December 1, 2009 (3:38 pm)

    I’m fine with any traffic issues – Charlestown (East of Cali) is used much to frequently as an arterial anyway – so maybe this will actually slow some commuters down or send them on another, more car-friendly route!

    A precursor(sp?) to me getting some more traffic-circles put in!

  • jim December 1, 2009 (3:53 pm)

    Wow Cheryl…that’s a lot of hits on YouTube!!!

    But that’s not my display. LOL

  • Dan'a December 1, 2009 (5:42 pm)

    That is lovely!!

  • bongo December 1, 2009 (8:44 pm)

    Love it and so does my 7 year old daughter.

  • Mike December 2, 2009 (5:21 am)

    That’s my big brother, nice job! How come you didn’t do that at my house!

  • Michelle December 2, 2009 (8:03 am)

    Totally amazing! I CAN NOT wait to see them in person!

  • Robert December 2, 2009 (8:44 am)

    Next year – go rogue and do the Water Tower! :-)

  • jim December 2, 2009 (8:57 am)

    Hey Robert…

    Got a 100′ ladder I could borrow?? LOL

  • Bettytheyeti December 2, 2009 (9:13 am)

    Yes Jim, the W a t e r T o w e r next!

  • Smitty December 2, 2009 (11:04 am)

    What a great idea – if the city would let you do it. You can see that watertower from downtown, ferries, QA and Magnolia(I think).

    Get on it!

  • Diane December 2, 2009 (2:21 pm)

    Awesome light show!!
    Jim you did it again, you are amazing!

  • jmc December 2, 2009 (3:42 pm)

    And they say we North Americans use global-warming-causing electricity for frivolous purposes!

    That said, it’s pretty cool and I’m gonna go check it out.

  • no meato burrito December 2, 2009 (5:40 pm)

    As someone else pointed out, it’s been done before, even with the exact same (awful) soundtrack. Yawn. At least pick a new song.

    PS: Bah Humbug

  • WSB December 2, 2009 (5:49 pm)

    Humbug, they’ve got more than 10 songs in all. This just happens to be the one he put on video.

  • Terri December 2, 2009 (8:06 pm)

    Fantastic job! It’s great to watch, but I don’t know if I would want to be one of the neighbors. And I definitely don’t want to have the electric bill. You certainly are creative…and you obviously have far too much time on your hands!! LOL!! I hope you don’t find our meager lighting too boring….

  • jim December 3, 2009 (6:36 am)


    Actually we use all LED lights, so the electricity used is probably less than a couple of ordinary strings of lights.

  • Hillary December 3, 2009 (9:31 pm)

    We stopped by tonight and loved it. Thanks so much! Got us out of the house and around WS to see all the fabulous lights… infusion of holiday spirit!

  • Bri'Anna December 4, 2009 (11:47 pm)

    Loved it! Took my family, my sister, my friend and her niece!!

    Jim- We thought it was like seeing the great Wonka walking out of his chocolate factory when you and your family walked outside. Hahaha fantastic job!

  • Pete-n-Paula December 5, 2009 (10:12 pm)

    Awesome !! Be sure to crank the radio, but also be sure to respect the neighborhood.. And for crying out loud, turn off your headlights..
    Thanks for a great show !!

  • debi December 8, 2009 (1:52 pm)

    Hey Jim, I enjoyed your new song’s…How’s that next one coming????

  • Lindsay Mackert December 9, 2009 (4:27 pm)

    Do you park outside the house and watch this in your car with the radio station?

    • WSB December 9, 2009 (4:35 pm)

      I have been by a couple times. Yes, there’s parking on the other side of Charlestown and cars are lined up there!

  • Michelle December 9, 2009 (8:20 pm)

    Yes, you park outside the house and listen to it on your radio. They have the FM station posted on a sign outside the house in case you forget what it is. Bring hot cider in a travel mug and enjoy the half-hour show. It’s riveting. Really exceptional. I especially loved Elvis’ Blue Christmas. It reminds me of a major fireworks show on the Fourth of July. I was really surprised to show up at 6pm on Saturday and find hardly anyone else there. Very easy to park right in front. Enjoy!

  • jsw December 9, 2009 (8:29 pm)

    Actually, some of the best views are in the alley next to the water tower and your car pointing north toward the house on 39th. If you are too close, like the side of the street next to house, you may be too close to see all the lights.

    Even better, if you can stand the cold, stand up by the water tower.

  • Sandy Valencour December 10, 2009 (7:39 am)

    If this doesn’t get you in the Christmas spirit, you are a lost person. Wonderful and thank you so much for restoring the spirit of the season for me.

  • Jen December 10, 2009 (7:58 pm)


  • deb December 12, 2009 (11:30 am)

    I enjoyed the new additions….but this Oma is a bit worried about “Grandma” getting Ran Over By A Reindeer!!
    It was so sweet watching the group of kids last night sitting on the curb enjoying the lights, some were even dancing to the music. This will live in their memories for a lifetime…..(I still remember the Gais Bakery display and getting Candy Canes). You have brought the true Spirit of Christmas bringing a community together with Lights and Song. Reminds me of “It’s A Wonderful Life” (Giving to others) Thanks again Jim, Merry Christmas!

  • Elizabeth December 14, 2009 (9:46 am)

    Does anybody know…will there be a longer set on Christmas Eve?

    • WSB December 14, 2009 (10:39 am)

      Just checked with Jim and he says yes, New Year’s Eve too. (More specifics to come, we’re working on a followup.) They are now up to 11 songs and he thinks they’ve maxed out at that, though (we hope to feature another video or two here before long) … TR

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