Elburn family wins TV’s ‘Great Christmas Light Fight’
By Linda Girardi For Sun-Times Media December 19, 2013 11:18AM
Updated: January 21, 2014 6:10AM
ELBURN — Illuminated leaping arches, trees, stars and motion strobe lights are part of a holiday display of 1 million lights designed to brighten and rekindle your Christmas spirit.
The programmed holiday display at the home of Brian and Angela Larsen in Elburn won first place in “The Great Christmas Light Fight,” that aired on the ABC network this week.
“We enjoy making memories for people,” Larsen said Tuesday.
Angela said during Monday night’s TV show that her husband is “over the top” for Christmas and was tearful by the show’s end because she was proud of what he had done.
“Brian lives for this time of year,” she said during the segment.
Larsen said his family’s extensive home lights at 42W891 Beith Road began seven years ago with thoughts of getting in the car with his dad as a kid to see holiday displays around his Batavia neighborhood.
He began a tradition of decorating his home with his wife and three young children to help create fond memories for others during the holidays. Hundreds of cars drive by each night to see it.
Larsen, the owner of Countywide Landscaping company, estimated the holiday home display was at 778,000 lights three years ago, but the collection easily has grown well beyond that, and now includes 2,400 strobe lights and a virtual Santa Claus.
Strobes and Santa
Larsen explained this year he really poured his heart into decorating the house when he received an invitation to participate in the TV competition, getting as little as three hours of sleep a night in order to complete the project in 21 days.
He added 18-foot tall cosmic ribbons of lights and 12 seven-foot tall toy soldiers.
“It was a lot of pressure, almost next to impossible,” Larsen said. “Thank goodness for all of my friends that helped. It was grueling work and at times frustrating. Normally it takes three months to set up.”
He said, though, the work is worth it. “All of the hard work pays off when you see tears in people’s eyes,” he said.
Larsen said the Christmas lights seem to strike a chord in people, especially for those missing a loved one during the holidays.
It also has already prompted some romance.
“Just last night someone proposed marriage to another person in our driveway,” he said.
Monday was the grand finale on the TV show when the family’s quest to bring joy to others was featured in the second of two back-to-back segments of “The Great Christmas Light Fight” on ABC, with other challengers from Pass Christian, Miss.; Prosper, Texas; and Pennsville, N.J.
“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” co-host Michael Moloney came with a camera crew to Elburn in October and returned in November to announce the family was the winner of the $50,000 first prize and Christmas light bulb trophy.
Judging was based on use of lights, Christmas spirit and overall design. The light show at the Larsen home is synchronized to music with those brilliant white strobe lights.
“Those are my favorite,” Moloney exclaimed during Monday’s show. “Wow, it’s beautiful. The only place I have seen that is on the Eiffel Tower.”
Moloney said he was impressed with the display of lights, the creativity and how it all came together in a beautiful way.
“To me, Christmas is all about being with family and this is clearly a tradition that will go on for years,” he said.
“I really didn’t think we would win, but the producers kept provoking me to say, ‘Bring it on America.’ That’s reality TV for you,” Larsen said.
As hard as it was to put together the lights display was keeping quiet about the result.
“We had to stay silent until after Monday’s show, which was really difficult, especially for our children,” Larsen said.
Now, the family can bask in the triumph.
“My kids are super excited and took the trophy to school,” Larsen said.