CARTHAGE, Mo. —
As Peter Frost hit the switch Fridaystet to kick off another Christmas light display at his rural Carthage church, his mind may have wandered back to last year's event, when not all was so bright.
The church the 20-year-old Frost has attended since childhood, Mt. Moriah United Methodist Church, is situated in an area not so conducive to extensive technology. And technology is what Frost has used in putting together his display of 50,000 lights.
However, that many lights, flimsy structures to drape them over and a lot of flat land with little to hinder the strong winds can be a formula for not such a merry Christmas, as Frost discovered.
It was just such wind that played havoc with the main tree in his display last December just two weeks into his month-long display.
His 10,000 light centerpiece, which is a 20-foot pole surrounded by lights in the shape of a Christmas tree, was blown over in what Frost described as the worst day of his life.
"It was horrible, but that will never happen again," said Frost, who started the display in 2010 as a senior class project at Carthage High School.
What he learned from that incident is not to use cheap cables. This year seven aircraft cables are being used to hold down the 20-foot tree.
The display will be held from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Christmas. To Frost it is more than just the lights that attract visitors to the show.
"I have tried to make my display about the music and letting the lights accentuate it," said Frost, a sophomore music major at Pittsburg (Kan.) State University. "In other displays, it is almost like the music goes with the lights. But with mine, the lights go with the music."
Frost said he he received his inspiration for the display from Silver Dollar City, which features more than 4 million lights each Christmas season.
Although the number of lights remains the same this year, he has enhanced the musical selections to go beyond his original selections that he programmed, such as "Amazing Grace" and "Walking in a Winter Wonderland."
The songs work in harmony with the lights flashing on and off. The 15-minute show has grown from about 10,000 lights the first year to around 50,000 today.
In addition to the 20-foot tree, Frost has put in place five small trees surrounding it. Two years ago he added lights to both the church and Sunday school buildings.
Anyone wishing to see the display should drive up to the church, located at 15506 Nutmeg Road, north of Carthage, and dial their radios to 89.7 FM, where the music is timed to the lighting display.
"It was my idea to tie the lights into the radio, which only works in the church driveway," Frost said. "The 89.7 FM channel is a blank channel that the FCC allows to be used for the lighting display only."
Another reason for using the radio, he said, is to keep peace among the neighbors, who may object to loud songs for such an extended period.
Despite last year's windy mishap, Frost said it was the best year ever for attendance, adding that about 100 cars came by in a four-hour session on one night.
Since 2010, he said he has heard only one negative comment when someone came out to see the display during a rain storm and found it not lit up. As Frost said, the computer stuff does not work when it is pouring down rain.
As if dealing with Mother Nature is not enough, Frost said there are so many other little things that can prove to be headaches.
"If one little bulb breaks anywhere, then there will be like a string of lights that don't work, and I will have to track it down," he said. "With 10,000 lights just on one tree, it is not always easy to find the broken one."
Although the musical light show has proven to be an exciting project for the church, it has also been a worthwhile ministry for raising funds for missionaries. Even though there is no fee charged for the display, visitors may leave money in the outdoor donation boxes.
From Carthage, go north on Garrison Ave., past Kendricktown, staying on the outer road (County Road 138) for four miles. Then turn left on Nutmeg Road and go another 1 1/2 miles.
Anyone wishing to get a preview of the show can look up Mt. Moriah Lights on Facebook. Those interested in scheduling a group visit may call Frost at 417-793-6409 or contact him via email at email@example.com.