Leechburg man's famed holiday display goes up despite loss, hardship
The popular Leechburg Lights show on Main Street will shine brightly this month after going dark earlier this year because of a series of misfortunes and tragedy.
Homeowner and show creator Clyde Lindsey's year has been one of heartache and hardships, but, he says, the show must go on.
He began working in October installing thousands of lights, prepping his historic home for what he deems his “labor of love.”
Lindsey created his popular synchronized light display in 2008.
Originally just a few lighted strings, his display now features more than 13,500 LED and RGB bulbs — which equates to 40,500 regular lights — all synchronized to traditional holiday music.
Each bulb has the capacity to display one of three colors: blue, red and green, and with RGB technology, Lindsey can program up to a million color combinations.
Always crazy for Christmas, Lindsey never imagined his humble first light show would grow into a community tradition that is gearing up for its ninth season.
Lindsey calls himself a “lighter,” a person with the hobby of building, programming and designing holiday light displays. He has an expansive social network outlet and connects with other lighters from around the U.S.
He said he has produced 135 video tutorials on constructing holiday light displays and has more than 1,700 YouTube subscribers.
Lindsey launches his holiday setup around Halloween, and he works for five weeks to complete his vision.
His setup time is dictated by the temperature and weather, but this fall's warm temperatures have been accommodating.
“I am actually two weeks ahead of schedule compared to last year,” he said. “The unpacking, moving and installing the nine reindeer on the roof is the toughest.
“It takes 18 trips to the attic to get them all down.”
He plans to debut this year's show on Saturday, coinciding with Leechburg's annual Luminate Leechburg festivities.
“There is nothing else I want to do,” Lindsey said. “This is my hobby, and it calms me down.”
Persevering through loss
Lindsey's stress levels were decidedly raised this year after his home caught fire in February, causing major damage throughout his 100-plus-year-old home.
The electrical fire was caused by a faulty power line.
Then a sewer line backup wreaked more havoc.
Steadily working on renovations, Tom Kenney, Lindsey's contractor and close friend, worked alongside Lindsey, making repairs to the lower level of the home, which Lindsey rents out. Lindsey lives upstairs.
Kenney was killed in June in an automobile accident. Lindsey is still reeling from the loss of his friend.
“I spoke with him 10 minutes before it happened,” Lindsey said. “I was the last person to hear his voice.”
But Lindsey said he never thought about giving up. “I feel he is with me,” he said.
Lindsey has spent the last eight months repairing, remodeling and rebuilding — both emotionally and logistically.
The repair costs were daunting, and Lindsey is “almost” done paying off the remaining debt.
He said he spent his life savings — $26,000 — on repairs.
“I am really looking forward to 2017 after this year,” he said.
Public awaits light show
Barney Wiles of Leechburg likes to walk his dog, Elvis, daily and recently stopped by to check on the lighting progress.
Wiles stopped to admire the “Mega Tree” as Lindsey ran tests on the lights. The Mega Tree stands nearly 20 feet tall and costs about $1,000.
“I would love to get another Mega Tree for the other side of the house,” Lindsey said.
“This is great, what he does,” said Wiles, who resides in the Leechburg High Rise a block away. “You couldn't do this just anywhere. Our little town is safe.”
Lindsey has never had issues with vandalism. He credits the friendly, small-town atmosphere Leechburg offers to his peace of mind once his display is set up each season.
Lindsey awaits the public
In the past, Lindsey would sometimes hide behind a large tree and sneak peeks of visitors stopping to view the show.
“The new sidewalks and sewer repair took out that tree now,” Lindsey said, pointing out a new smooth and level sidewalk in front of his home.
Lindsey said he enjoys arriving home after a hectic day as assistant manager of Kings Family Restaurant in Kittanning and seeing the public waiting for the show to start.
“My favorite aspect of the show is seeing the road and parking lots filled with people,” Lindsey said. “But what gets me going even more is hearing the kids carry on with excitement.”
Leechburg native Dennis Miller lives next to Lindsey, and jokingly has dubbed the display “Leechburg's Las Vegas.”
Miller pops over to visit and help Lindsey often.
“I love it. It's festive,” Miller said. “I even bring out hot chocolate sometimes for the visitors, and l love to check out the license plates of the cars to see where people are from.”
Miller has noticed auto plates from Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and New York.
“I usually have 100 cars on opening night,” said Lindsey, who appreciates his neighbors' patience during December when Main Street sees an uptick in traffic — both pedestrian and automotive.
Synchronizing the music
Lindsey runs his entire show from an upgraded laptop. He plans to expand his playlist this year from 14 to nearly 30 songs. His favorite is “Silent Night.”
He plans to program a re-mixed, more up-tempo variation as one of the new songs.
Lindsey painstakingly sequences each song on his computer, with 20 to 30 hours of programming required for each song.
And how much does all of this holiday brightness affect his electric bill?
“It's about $100 more per month,” Lindsey said, thanks to energy-efficient light technology.
Leechburg Mayor Shawn Lerch commends Lindsey's dedication.
“He does a remarkable job with his countless hours of sweat equity and unselfishness to put up a magnificent display that grows every year,” Lerch said. “It brings people from near and far to enjoy what is now a Christmas tradition in Leechburg.
“Keep up the great work, sir. A lot of folks can't wait to see this year's show!”
Joyce Hanz is a freelance writer.