PRINCETON — As a kid, Pat Riley remembers driving home from Chicago Bears games with his dad around this time of year and passing by a home in Elgin that had a yard full of animated Christmas light displays
It was quite a sight to see and it stuck with him for years. That home got him started on a lifelong passion for Christmas lighting décor, which is now something he does professionally as owner of Extreme Lighting — a local company that specalizes in custom Christmas lighting displays.
“I don’t look at it as work. Yeah, there is a lot of hours and a lot of time, but I don’t look at it like that,” he said. “I look at it as my kids are going to enjoy it, your kids are going to enjoy it. That’s what I like — the little ones can see the joy I had when I was little.”
Riley has taken his passion to the next level this year and has built a public grand lighting display in Princeton at the home located at 114 N. Randolph St.
The display consists of more than 12,000 lights — more than 2,500 lights on the roof alone — which are all synchronized to music broadcasted over the radio on 98.1 FM.
“This is not your average Christmas light show,” Riley said.
In fact, the lights are all controlled by a computer software.
Families are invited to drive-by the home and watch the show while they tune into the music on the radio. Riley said it’s a safe activity to do this year as families can stay in their cars and avoid crowds. It’s a great excuse to get out of the house and enjoy something that is sure to get anyone into the Christmas spirit.
The show kicks off Friday, Nov. 27, and runs every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 7 to 11 p.m. until New Year's Day. The light show will also be going on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, which fall on a Thursday. On Friday, Nov, 27, Santa and the Grinch will be at the home waving to guests as they drive by to see the show.
While this show is a gift to the community, Riley has hopes to expand on the show and make it twice as big next year. He is currently fundraising to help cover the expense of the lights and costly light bill that comes with the show. Plus, he’s hoping to have a little extra money left over to help families in need at Christmas.
Riley said he knows what it’s like to struggle at Christmas and this show is one way he can give back to families in need.
“That is the Nov. 1 goal since day one. I’m not putting money in my pocket or anything like that,” he said. “We have to pay for expenses and light bill and whatever is left I’m donating it back.”
If people like what they see on North Randolph Street, they can make a donation online through a link on the Extreme Lighting Facebook page, they can drop off a donation at Riley’s storefront in Princeton, Extreme Rentals, or they can drop a donation inside a donation box that will be set up outside the home on Randolph Street.