Spare the Ladder
Professional Holiday Lighting Sparkles without the Hassle
Creating a light display that’s the envy of the neighborhood can pose a serious difficulty— it’s a challenge to come up with a creative design, and there’s potential danger stringing them on the house. For people, all the holiday cheer isn’t worth the hassle of elaborate lighting.
Luckily, there are actually companies that handle the design and installation of holiday lights, meaning all the resident has to do is enjoy the twinkle. Two such businesses in Frederick County include Christmas Décor (ChristmasDecor.net/252) and King of Christmas (TheKingofChristmas.com); both offer turnkey services, so the lights are stored in the offseason for easy repeat setups in subsequent years.
“Starting Jan. 4, we go out, map it, tag it, bag it and store it,” says Roy Good, owner of Christmas Décor. “In the last week of [October] I’m going to be trying to put up roofs. I’ve already been into it—we had a couple days of rain and that’s what we did: opened the Christmas boxes, tidied up, set up our staging station where we bring lights. As those accounts renew, all those orders have to be opened up and we make sure everything is there.”
Good began designing and hanging lights 16 years ago as a way of boosting his landscaping income during the winter. When a customer contacts him, he presents several options based on their budget. He has about 35 customers, and most setups are between $1,300 and $1,500. “I used to do snow removal and wanted to have a late-season revenue stream—Christmas comes every year,” he says. “You can’t predict the snow and the uncertainty of it all, but this is a little different.”
Ron Layman, who owns King of Christmas, has been installing lights professionally since 2007, but says he’s always been obsessed with holiday lights. “As a kid, I always loved Christmas lights, hanging Christmas lights,” Layman says. “My parents would say, ‘Stop, you’re going to blow the electric bill through the roof.’”
In addition to handling lighting for a number of homes, Layman also does lights for businesses, including Ski Liberty in Fairfield, Pa. Lights can be adjusted to fit almost any budget, and Layman says he also presents several options based on what a customer wants.
Layman says the installations typically don’t cause a surging electric bill, as the LED lights use far less electricity than the old style of lights. “For the past few years, I’ve done Ski Liberty and we did somewhere in the neighborhood of one million light bulbs—it’s staggering how many lights were there,” he says. “They barely even noticed [an increase in electric use] and they leave them on 24 hours a day.”
It’s not just Christmas lights that drive Layman’s business, though. In recent years he’s been branching out after being tapped to do displays for the Hindu holiday Bali, as well as Hanukah lights. “I didn’t know how much decorating there was for Bali,” Layman says. “It was fun to come up with new ideas outside what we normally do. It’s just fun—people have grand ideas, but don’t have the time or ability to do it.”
For both Layman and Good, safety is a major priority. Dealing with ladders and rooftops in wintertime conditions can be hazardous.
“We have a customer who became a client because he fell off the roof and broke his arm,” Layman says. “One in Urbana dropped a hammer off the roof and it went through his windshield—you’d be amazed at how many accidents there are of people on ladders. We have a safety program in place and train our guys on ladder safety. It’s fun, but we have to be safe.”
Good echoes a similar sentiment. “I tell my men, ‘There’s not one light bulb out there that’s worth your safety—these are Christmas lights, guys,’” he says. “You’re in harnesses when you’re on the roof, and always one to two guys spotting a ladder.”
While both businesses can string lights on homes and trees, they’re also able to create large, elaborate setups. Layman has a workshop where he and his staff can create wooden characters to enhance displays, like one client who has Dr. Seuss’ Grinch pulling the lights off the house as an aghast Cindy Lou Who looks on.
One of Layman’s more elaborate displays is not just a feat of design, but installation, too. A client in Baltimore requests a fast setup to surprise her children, so Layman and his team swarm the house to put up an entire display in one day. The design changes every year, and the house, which is located on a corner, gets a lot of traffic, Layman says. “We do close to 20,000 lights,” Layman says. “It’s all colored lights. She has really young kids, so she wants Christmas to be fun. It’s a lot of illuminated lawn displays and animated things that happen with the lights. Some people call it the Clark Griswold from Christmas Vacation and that’s what she wants.”
As you might imagine, designing and installing Christmas lights for a living is an exciting, not to mention fun, job. One of Good’s regular customers makes a new, elaborate design each year, and says he looks forward to working together with him to create the displays. “It makes him so happy—when it’s there he’s so proud of it,” Good says. “It’s one of the fun things. I’m supposed to meet with him next week, because he wants to change things. I’ll spend two hours with him, and he’s going to tell me all the colors and everything else.”
Layman says he loves that he gets to bring Christmas cheer to local families. “It’s a blast; it’s not even really like work,” Layman says. “You have so much fun. You don’t get to see the finished product sometimes, but you get emails with pictures and videos from our clients saying how happy they are.”