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Christmas Light Wars Are a Big Business

by Ben Popken /
Image:In this Dec. 14, 2016 photo, visitors to the Dyker Heights neighborhood of the Brooklyn Borough of New York gather in front of Lucy Spata's house, as they tour the area known for it's elaborate and over-the-top Christmas displays.
In this Dec. 14, 2016 photo, visitors to the Dyker Heights neighborhood of the Brooklyn Borough of New York gather in front of Lucy Spata's house, as they tour the area known for it's elaborate and over-the-top Christmas displays.Kathy Willens / AP

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Some people are outsourcing Christmas, and they're willing to pay big bucks.

The competition for who has the best Christmas display is so fierce that some people are shelling out thousands of dollars to light up the holidays.

"They want to be the best on the block," said Darren Vader, founder of Extreme Lightscapes, a lighting decoration firm. "It's an arms race."

The Dyker Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn is so famous for its over-the-top holiday light displays that police this year have enacted special parking rules for the tour buses clogging the narrow streets.

Colored lights appear to adorn every surface of some yards, with animated snowflakes, life-size nutcrackers, and robotic reindeer jammed in, each house bidding to outdo the next.

In between the inflatable Santas and flashing red, white, and neon, there's an additional sign of the holidays: placards in yards for the private decorating outfits that bedecked these halls.

It's booming business: Despite a price tag that can top $20,000, Brooklyn company Mechanical Displays still has to turn customers down. B&R Christmas Decorators reportedly charges between $500 to $10,000 for a display and has had displays that top 50,00 lights.

But it's not just Brooklyn thing. The Austin, Texas based Got Lights has decked out customers with over 7,500 lights at a time. And nationally franchised Christmas Decor has had some customers who have shelled out upwards of $50,000. Miami-based Randy's Holiday Lighting says some of their customers are now even adding lasers.

And the displays have only gotten bigger over the years. "Today, every neighborhood has some guy who is putting lights and music in his front yard," said Vader.

Some of the most extravagant light shows now use RGB-based pixel lights that can be programmed to show any color, and can even be animated, he said. These households will use high-tech firepower to create eye-popping displays and often put out a donation box for passers by, with all donations going to charity.

"They measure success of the effort by how many donations they get," said Vader.

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