(Photo: Val Bagley’s “B” House in Fairview is among many who go all out for Halloween.)
Looking for an impressive trick, and a delightful treat all rolled into one bright, shining fall evening? Well, Bedford holds a secret that is sure to dazzle your family this season.
Robert and Julia Shumway, along with their 5 children, Shaylon, Caroline, Scott, Levi, and Jack, have prepared a Halloween light show for friends and neighbors to view each evening from dusk until 10 pm. The show features close to 100,000 lights that are computer programmed to dance and blink in rhythm and sequence to 10 fun and entertaining Halloween songs being broadcast over a specific radio station. Tuning details can be seen on a billboard among the lights on the Shumway lawn.
When the Shumway children were extremely young, and the entertainment budget was modest, driving around the community, viewing all the Christmas lights, was a favorite family activity during the holiday season.
The joy and bonding time that they shared on those drives inspired Robert and Julia to craft a display of their own, with a unique twist. Their display would include music broadcast over a radio frequency, specially programmed computers, and thousands of dancing lights.
San Antonio, Texas was home during those first years of the show. The climate was easy on the equipment, and the community flocked to see the show. Shaylon remembers, “In Texas, people would turn their radios up loud, get out of their cars, and dance in the street to our light show. One time, a big truck and trailer pulled up full of high schoolers!”
As the Shumway family grew, so did the show. They produced the show for 3 years in Texas, and then moved to Riverton, Wyoming, where they continued the beloved tradition for an additional 2 years. Finally, in 2014, the family relocated to Bedford to be close to Julia’s parents, and to enjoy a more rural community. They built a home along the Bedford-Turnerville Road that is specifically designed for the light shows, and Christmas 2017 will be the family’s 3rd year producing their shows in Star Valley.
Plans for each year’s show begin New Year’s Day. Halloween and Christmas music fill the Shumway home as they celebrate completion of one show and creation of the next. For the Shumway family members, this herculean task means approximately 2000 hours in front of programming screens for each show. For Scott, the reward is connecting with strangers through the show. He says, “I like when people walk up to me in random places and tell me they really like the light show.” “I like to see families and friends enjoy the show,” adds Shaylon.
Through the years, as the children have matured and developed a love for this family project, they have taken over all the programming. Robert supervises, and the kids create the fun. While there is significant sacrifice that plays into funding, creating and running the show, Julia says, “It’s well worth it. It’s been a constant in our home when there has been a lot of change.”
The family has grown close through the process of shaping their annual creation as it takes on a life of its own. The kids thoroughly enjoy working together, and the space that Robert and Julia give them to create freely within the framework of their project nurtures the family bond. Sharing her thoughts, Caroline says, “My favorite memory of the light show is when Shaylon sat with me at the table and taught me how to program.”
This is something that the family works on all the time. It allows them family time year-round. The varied and vibrant personalities of each family member shine through in their creations, and they love what they do. Jack, the youngest, says, “I like to go out and watch the show for the very first time after we put the lights up.”
“We are here every evening, September 1 through January 1, to run the show. It’s well worth the sacrifice because of the joy it brings our family to create together,” Robert shared. “My favorite part about the light show is all the family time we spend putting the lights up outside,” Levi adds. “Taking them down isn’t as fun though. All the frozen lights need to be thawed, dried, and rolled up without tangles.”
Logistics to prepare and keep the show running include maintenance of all equipment and the grounds. Physical set up of equipment for each show requires anywhere from 2-4 full days. As with any technical effort, equipment may malfunction. This means repairs in the middle of the show, or occasionally the closure of the show for a brief time.
Snow removal is a constant effort, with Gaylon Heiner, Julia’s Dad, making sure that guests to the show can park off the road safely, view the show comfortably, and get back on the road easily. Guests can park directly across the road from the Shumway home, and turn headlights off so that other guests can enjoy the lights at their brightest.
It takes a small fortune to fund this annual project. With equipment, repairs and power bills, the cost runs close to that of a very luxurious annual vacation for the entire family. Robert has just priced blue lights for the Halloween display next year. Each spool of 148 linear feet costs $498. They need 10 spools for next year, so that translates to $5,000 just for one color of lights in next year’s show. Each year, approximately 30% of the lights and equipment need to be replaced, and that means the entire show, with exception of computers, needs to be replaced about every 4 years.
For inquiring technology geeks out there, here are a few details. There are 200 AMPs of power allotted to the front porch alone, and the show runs on 300 AMPs. Over 250 extension cords cover the porch and lawn. Each outlet on the porch has its own electrical breaker. Nine computers run the Halloween show this year, and 10 computers are slated to run the Christmas show.
For the robotics connoisseur, Robert runs 126 channels, with each second of programming supporting 12,600 characters. For those of us who just enjoy good entertainment, all that technical information translates to a process that allows the lights to flash at a speed that is faster than the human eye can detect, so it looks like animation. And it makes for a lot of fun!
Some funding for the show comes through generous donations from Marion and DeeAnne Robinson of the Robinson Family Farm and Ranch. Shumway’s graciously acknowledge the donations between musical selections, and would welcome other donations. To help fund the show, guests can contact Robert directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations are still welcome for this year’s shows, and if made, donations will be acknowledged during the show, which cycles about every 25 minutes.
The Halloween show runs now through October 31, and the Christmas show will run December 1 through January 1.