The Hatt family of Westbrook takes in the Mead home holiday light show from their car Monday. Chance Viles / American Journal

Hundreds of people flock to the Mead family’s Westbrook home each year to see an intricate holiday light show synced to music.

What they don’t see, though, is the amount of work Todd Mead puts into the show, hand-building the frames for the lights and using computer coding to create the show itself, which is different each night. He launches the show shortly after Thanksgiving, and starts work on the next year’s just weeks after the lights are turned off for the season.

All of the structures used in the light show, from a 20-foot Christmas tree to a snowflake fixed on the roof, was handmade by Mead often months in advance. Chance Viles / American Journal

The show,  a fundraiser for the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, is a labor of love for Mead. He and his family, he said, get as much of a kick out of watching the viewers as the viewers get watching the show.

“It’s really about seeing people dance in the street, watching the show in awe,” he said.

The show consists of a series of lighted arrays that change colors in time to popular tunes and Christmas music played over a channel that can be picked up on car radios. One second the house may be pulsating in greens and reds, and the next it is bathed in icy blue falling “snowflakes.” Depending on the music, the show can be energetic, with bright flashes synced to the percussion of rock songs, or more relaxing, as when Mariah Carey’s version of “All I Want for Christmas” is playing.

The orchestration of moving lights and images is conducted through programming on a series of small micro-computers controlled from Mead’s cell phone.

Mead used wood and plastic to construct the light frames, which include depictions of trees, giant snowflakes and wreaths. An LED monitor displays characters like snowmen and reindeer.

“It’s tons of prep,” he said. “A good sequence of lights, a part of the show, can take up to 40 hours.”

He keeps adding lights to the mix, too.

“We’ve got more than double the lights this year than last year, almost 8,000 individual lights,” Mead said. “We have LED lights with high-density pixels.”

The high-efficiency lights result in only an additional $15 to his monthly electric bill, he said.

During Monday’s show, Jess Hatt of Westbrook, proclaimed it impressive and said it “couldn’t have come at a better time.”

“It really is something for the neighborhood to look forward to, especially after COVID has taken away a lot of events,” she said.

Hatt was in company with her young daughter and husband, Chris Hatt.

“I agree. It is really cool and right in town,” Chris Hatt said.

As in previous years, the family asks viewers to donate to the Animal Refuge League. The family raised $4,500 in donations last year and this year they are aiming for at least $6,000.

Fundraisers like this are critical for the shelter,  said Communications Director Jeana Roth, because the pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of key fundraising events.

“We have been creative and have pivoted to COVID-19 safe events, and have worked with community partners like the Mead family to help raise those funds in a new way,” Roth said. “We are so grateful to the Mead family for selecting the ARLGP as their nonprofit partner. They do an amazing job year after year.”

The light shows, at 64 Jacqueline Way, run nightly 6-9 p.m., but hours will expand as Christmas gets closer.  Donations can be made to a donation box outside of the home.

The Mead home in Westbrook, during the light show. Chance Viles / American Journal

 

Comments are not available on this story.