A Booneville family is brightening the Christmas season with an elaborate light display aimed at spreading joy.
Computer controlled lights bring beloved characters and traditional favorites to life in sync with music at the home of Aaron and Cassie Foster on Highway 4, just west of Booneville, where hard work and a desire to share the Christmas spirit in difficult times has created a Christmas wonderland that’s drawing people from throughout the area.
“It’s been a tough year,” said Aaron. “I’m trying to remind people no matter how bad it gets we have a lot to be thankful for.”
The Iuka native said he began doing a more modest light display a few years ago and it has grown steadily. After seeing some of the more elaborate, computer-controlled displays he decided he wanted to develop a similar show. As an engineer, though he’s quick to emphasize not a computer science person, he was fascinated with the technology behind the displays which allow the numerous lights and displays to operate in sync with music broadcast to viewers vehicles by an FM radio transmitter.
As the pandemic picked up speed earlier in the year, Foster said he became determined to make this the year he went all out with the project. He said he and his family wanted to create something that would be a literal bright spot during a challenging and often dark and difficult year.
“I just know this has been a tough year for a lot of people. I was really wanting to do something for the community,” he said.
As a drive-up experience, he said the display gives people the opportunity to share time with their families and get out of the house while still staying safe and protected from the virus.
“This is something everyone can enjoy,” he said.
Getting the project up and running has been an educational experience. With nine controllers spread throughout the yard all connected to a dedicated computer inside the house and operating thousands of lights going off and on in time with the music, Foster said he’s had to learn a lot to make it happen.
“I really had to learn from scratch,” he said.
While the basic programming for each song, known as a sequence, can be purchased online, those programs must be painstakingly adapted to the user’s specific system and equipment to create the desired effect.
“You really have to adapt it to what you have,” he said.
The effort has been a labor of love for the entire Foster family including Aaron, his wife, Cassie, sons Turner and Gibson and daughter, Davis. The kids have gotten involved in helping set up the display while Aaron describes his wife, Cassie, with a laugh as his “hype person”.
A longtime employee of Toyota, Aaron said he spends much of his time out of town while Cassie, a dyslexia therapist with the Booneville School District, knows everyone in Booneville and is active on social media. He said she’s been the driving force behind spreading the word about the display and encouraging people to come visit.
The response from the community has been far beyond anything he could have anticipated.
“That’s been my biggest surprise, but it’s also been my biggest joy,” he said. “The response is overwhelming.”
He wants to make clear the effort has never been about drawing attention or glory to him or his family.
“The whole purpose is just to give the community something to do in a tough year,” he said.