It was a cold December night, when Kyle and Jill Kryger heard a knock at the front door.
“Hi! Can you turn your lights on? We drove in from Iowa.”
This was one of the moments when Kyle and Jill realized that their Christmas display was kind of a big deal. For the past 11 years, rope lights have trimmed the roof line of their house, luminaries have lined the driveway, lanterns have hung from the trees and a light-up Santa has sat in the yard of the Kryger’s 4-bedroom home at 13201 Granada Dr. in Leawood, KS. In total, the display includes thousands of lights—this equals a pretty impressive holiday display.
But what makes their lights road-trip-from-Iowa worthy? They dance to the beat of the music. But fair warning, the show might make you start dancing as well.
“We looked out our window one time and saw a little kid dancing in the driveway,” Jill says.
This is probably because the 20-minute show, with holiday songs from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Elvis, and Charlie Brown, is so darn danceable. And if you go on the right night you might even hear a wildcard tune.
“I put in the KU fight song one night when KU was playing MU,” Kyle says.
“And another year he added Gangnam Style,” his wife, Jill, adds. “I was like, ‘What does that have to do with Christmas?’”
But it’s that sort of fun that keeps people from coming back year after year. And also why it’s so hard for the Krygers to announce that this year as their last display. They want to end the show on a high note—and running the display for more than a decade is no small task.
“My buddy said, ‘We want to start this business and we think you’re going to want to try it out,’” Kyle says.
Keep in mind this was in 2003—back when Christmas light shows were few and far between. It also meant Kyle manually synced thousands of lights on his house, bushes and driveway to a variety of holiday tunes.
“There are programs that do it automatically, but I prefer to do my own deal,” Kyle says.
“He’s pretty OCD about it,” Jill, adds.
She’s not kidding. In past years, Kyle has waited until they turned off the display (which is around 2 a.m. Thursday through Sunday) as to not disturb the viewers. Then he’d perfect the show into the wee hours of the morning.
“I would video tape the lights from my car and watch the footage to make sure it was just right,” Kyle said.
First he programmed the lights to the beat of the music. Then he synced the lights with the lyrics of the song. Finally, he merged the two together. Kyle says that it can take anywhere from four to 12 hours to program one 3-minute song.
“The software is like an excel spreadsheet with the time going across the top and the lights going down the side,” Kyle says.
He manages the show using a controller appropriately named “Monster Brain” from Animated Lighting. He has about six of these controllers to keep everything running smoothly.
“Just picture a guy inside the box flipping a bunch of switches at once,” Kyle says.
He also programmed his own radio station using a FM radio transmitter kit so visitors could tune in their car radio to hear the holiday tunes. Even once the technical difficulties out of the way, there are still about six weekends worth of set up involved. And you’d think when you’re fixing to be the brightest house on the block that you wouldn’t be very popular with your neighbors, right? Wrong!
“We have never had a complaint. Not once. Some of our best friends live on the street,” Jill says. “They say that they love seeing the cars and lights.”
And that’s exactly what you’ll see if you visit the Kryger house Monday through Wednesday 5 p.m. – midnight and Thursday through Sunday 5 p.m. – 2 a.m. As soon as the clock strikes 5 p.m., like moths to a flame, the cars start pulling up. If the weather happens to be nice, visitors are known to spread out blankets, cranking their radio up and windows down.
Sometimes you can even catch a neighbor selling “Cocoa for a Cause” in honor of her mother who battled cancer. The Krygers say that these type of moments make all the hard work—and slightly larger light bill—worth it.
“I’ll be checking out at the grocery store and someone will recognize my name and say, ‘You’re the Christmas light house!’” Jill says. “And people send us gifts and letters. Letters that will make you cry.”
No two stories were the same. One woman expressed gratitude for the light show when her daughter was sick and going through cancer treatments. Another said she was moving to Colorado and seeing the show was on the top of her bucket list.
Be sure you add this stop to your bucket list before the lights fade for good on January 1, 2015. And if you want to make a night of light-watching, check out these other displays in the Johnson County area—they’re sure to brighten up your holiday season.
The details in a flash
Who: The Kryger family
What: A free holiday light show
When: Monday – Wednesday: 5 p.m. – midnight, Thursday – Sunday: 5 p.m. – 2 a.m. Now – January 1, 2015
Where: 13201 Granada Dr. Leawood, KS 66209
Radio station: 96.9 FM
Update: Since the publication of this article, the Kryger’s 13-year-old son, Sam, has convinced his parents to continue the light show for one more year! Thanks, Sam! We owe you one.