Greg Zimmerman – Balboa Island, Newport Beach, Calif.

It never snows in Southern California, and Balboa Island is no exception. Except when Greg Zimmerman turns on his Christmas lights Thanksgiving night.

Not only does he make it snow, but he also synchronizes his display to music, the first home in Newport Beach to do so. There’s a gingerbread man on a trampoline, Santa in a helicopter, a tin soldier with a drum, and a snowman who tips his hat. As Zimmerman said, “There’s a lot to see.”

With five children, Christmas has always been a big to-do in the Zimmerman household. His wife Loretta handles the inside of the house. Not being much for interior decorating, Zimmerman decided to see what he could do with the outside. Seven years ago, he taught himself how to synchronize the lights to music.

“There’s a very steep learning curve, but once you’re there, it makes sense and it flows,” Zimmerman said.

Each year it got a little bigger, a little brighter. This year Zimmerman’s house is covered in 25,871 lights. His display draws in visitors from around the world, one of the perks of living in a year-round tourist destination. Last year Zimmerman counted visitors from 24 different countries. During last week’s Newport Harbor Parade, 2,185 visitors on foot stopped by his home. Everyone from “young infants from the very elderly” comes to see the display, and many are repeat visitors.

He sets the display up himself in two weeks. The first week is spent unpacking and setting up the spectacle. The second week is spent wiring it. The lights go on Thanksgiving night and will remain lighted until the end of the year. Once Zimmerman turns them off, it takes him and his family one day to take everything down, and to put it away.

Although the lights go off at the end of the year, Zimmerman spends the off season making repairs, finding new decorations while traveling, designing and building and programming the next computer show.

“I refer to it as my year-round hobby,” Zimmerman said. “Many hundreds of hours go into it each year. I just try to keep it fresh and interesting.”

One thing Zimmerman isn’t planning to do is make the display any bigger.

“We’ve covered our house 100 percent,” he said. “I’m out of real estate.”

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