November 26, 2010

In Augusta, a Griswoldish display

A doctor who admits to extreme holiday enthusiasm says it with synchronized lights and music.

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Some 10,000 red, white and blue lights twinkle, fade, brighten, fade, shimmer and dance -- all in sync with holiday classics performed by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Mannheim Steamroller and others.

click image to enlarge

For the second year, the offices of Augusta Orthodontics are lighting up the holiday-season nights. Dr. Darryl Zeleniak, who says National Lampoon movie misadventurer Clark Griswold is his hero, choreographed the display.

Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

click image to enlarge

Karen Zeleniak hands a Christmas tree decoration out a second-floor window to her husband, Darryl, as they set up lights last week on their office building at the corner of State and Green streets in Augusta.

Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The show starts tonight and runs nightly from 4:40 to 9 at 132 State St., home of Augusta Orthodontics, the dental practice of Dr. Darryl Zeleniak.

"I suffer from Clark Griswold syndrome," Zeleniak said, alluding to the hapless father in the movie "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."

Zeleniak, who set up his practice in Augusta 20 years ago, has strung almost all the lights himself on the front and side of the 1832 federal-style white house and links 100 individually labeled extension cords to a control box.

A computer controls the light show, fading and blacking it out in coordination with the 30-minute music loop.

Zeleniak is chief choreographer and seeks music apropos of the season and his profession.

"I'm looking to run 'All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth,' " Zeleniak said. His goal for the song is to flash white rope lights on two tall second-story windows and black out the rest of the building.

It's the second year for the light-and-music display. Zeleniak said he was inspired by holiday visits to the John Wanamaker store in downtown Philadelphia.

"I used to go there as a kid and, later, as an adult in dental school at Temple University," Zeleniak said.

He's also patterned his show on the fountain, music and light displays at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa.

Zeleniak had help from Steve Shorey, a Litchfield contractor, when it came to the highest points.

"My wife, having seen the Lampoon movies, wouldn't let me up there," he said.

The Zeleniaks decided to trim the office building rather than their rural Litchfield home. "This is so much more fun," his wife, Karen Zeleniak said. "No one would see it there."

To sample this show before you visit, go to http://youtu.be/NcILSeAKl2E to view a YouTube clip of the lights and an interview with Zeleniak.

This year is better and brighter than ever, Zeleniak said last week after climbing in through a second-story window for a break.

He added FM transmitters so motorists can stay warm in their vehicles and still hear the music as they watch the show. Tune in to 88.5.

"The electricity bill is not that bad," Zeleniak said. "Almost all the lights are LEDs."

The dancing lights were well received by neighbors last year, said Karen Zeleniak, who also works at the orthodontics office. Passers-by and clients have asked about whether it would be reprised this year.

"Luckily, it's nonresidential for the most part," Zeleniak said. "They're not super-loud songs and the stop time is crucial."

The display runs through New Year's Day.

"Clark Griswold is my hero," Darryl Zeleniak said.

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