The Christmas Decorating Obsession

Geist--Brightly decorated house in Pickerington, OH
Geist--Brightly decorated house in Pickerington, OH

It all begins simply and tastefully enough with Christmas lights. Then it gets in your blood. You wake up one morning and your house looks like the Golden Nugget casino. But we've actually reached a point where a megawatt miracle of a house is understated compared to the one next door.

Marty Slack took his love of Christmas decorations to a rare level.

"I think I'm beyond fanatic; I was fanatic a few years ago," he told Sunday Morning correspondent Bill Geist.

"Our kids were little and I tried talking Marty into putting up a few lights," Marty's wife, Micalle said. "Sometimes I wish I hadn't. It's too late for that now."

The Slack house is now decorated with more than 100,000 scurrying and pulsating lights elaborately choreographed, and synchronized with music that he broadcasts to more than 1,000 cars on some nights, drawn to peaceful Whispering Pine Circle in Murray, Utah.

"Last year on Christmas Eve we had several of the major intersections backed up out half a mile away," he said. "It will take the neighbors 45 minutes just to drive into the neighborhood and get into their own driveway."

Some people say that Slack is crazy, but when they're sitting there watching his display, they have huge smiles on their faces and are giggling and pointing.

"It definitely spreads Christmas spirit," he said. "That's why I do it."

To succeed in bringing a little bit of Las Vegas to his front yard, Slack had to rewire the whole house himself.

"I've done several upgrades to the wiring," he said. "I was figuring I have over ten thousand feet of extension cord."

His power bill is so high that the director of the power company stops by every once in a while, knocking on the door to say, 'Hi and thank you.'

Marty spends 20 hours on his computer synchronizing each minute of his Christmas spectacular. Computerizing Christmas light displays is taking off. There is a community of guys like Slack who use technology to help enhance their Christmas display.

"We're actually a pretty tight-knit group. I talk to people all over the world every day over the Internet," Slack said.

This community meets on a Web site which has 6,000 members and hold conventions. Marty won first prize in the Web site's international competition last year. This year they'll need a team award, because there's a colossal computerized display in Pickerington, Ohio, with 15 houses on the same street all blinking in synch. It was created by Rob Lare.

"I started out three years ago with just having my one house and last year we had three neighbors join us," Lare said.

He staged a recruiting drive this year, and houses were still jumping on the bandwagon Friday. Lare says responses have run the gamut.

"I have had ladies drive by with tears on their face, they were so moved by moving lights," he said. "I had an e-mail saying her husband drug her out and she was sure it was gonna be cheesy and came around the bend and she was awestruck. She couldn't believe we got people together to do this with no other reason than to make people happy."

And that seems to be the motivation for Rob in lighting up his Ohio neighborhood and Marty at his house back in Utah.

"Hopefully it's creating some memories. They'll think about this years from now — how fun it was to go see that house with all those lights," Slack said.