San Luis Obispo family goes big to get into the holiday spirit

Dec 21, 2018

When it comes to decorating for the holidays, some families get more into the festivities than others. There’s one San Luis Obispo resident who thinks about Christmas decorations year round, and turns his family’s house into a nightly lights and music show.

Wayne Terry is a husband, father, engineer....and Christmas lover.

“Christmas has always been pretty big,” Terry said, “As soon as we can start putting up decorations...we try to keep it after Thanksgiving and separate the holidays. It’s just something about the lights. I really like the lights. The decorations, the smells."

About a decade ago, Terry saw a YouTube video of a lit-up house, blasting holiday songs, and all the Christmas lights were synced up to the music, with different sections flashing on and off with the lyrics and to the beat. Terry thought, "I can do that.”

According to Terry, the first year ended up being a lot of work and a learning experience. He got shocked when his hand touched an electric panel without gloves on.

“[It felt like] the hardest punch in the chest I’ve ever had,” Terry said. “The whole family was laughing. At the time I was mad they were laughing, but I can laugh about it now. My Griswold moment.”

By Griswold, Terry means Clark Griswold from the movie "Christmas Vacation," played by Chevy Chase. You know the one where the overachieving family man overdoes it on the decorations and covers his whole house in lights?

At Terry’s house, a giant snowman in the front yard lights up, the gate lights twinkle, the trees and bushes flicker, candy canes glow and the roof flashes like a strobe. The whole house looks like a disco, flashing in time with the music. Terry said he has programmed around 40 songs over the years. His favorite is what he calls "Christmas Rock."

“I love Trans-Siberian Orchestra songs,” Terry said. “They’re really fun and they really kind of amp me up. But I try to intermingle them with some slower songs, some traditional songs. I have some country songs in there to get everyone something they really like.”

“We never intended to become the crazy Christmas people on the corner, but here we are,”said Leslie Terry, Wayne Terry’s wife. “I come home and kids are dancing on the sidewalk, and families are taking pictures and everyone’s really supportive. So it’s nice.”

And how do the neighbors feel about it?

“Everyone seems to really like it, Terry said. “I get a lot of engineers and a lot of dads come by asking me, 'how did you do this?'”

Terry said in the first year his electric bill shot up $200 dollars a month. But now with so many different kinds of energy-efficient Christmas lights on the market now, Terry said his bill only goes up slightly in the winter.

He broadcasts the music via radio from his house. People can just pull up and watch and listen to the show on their car stereo. That's if you know where to tune, and where to go. Terry’s holiday light show isn’t advertised. People either find Terry’s house by word of mouth or just cruising around.

To catch one of Terry’s holiday light and music shows, it’s on Chorro Street in San Luis Obispo near the train station.

He’s got big plans for next holiday season—adding new props and light sequences. He thinks he’ll probably have to get started on the house early next year—in May.