Batavia resident Brett Foy has enjoyed decorating his house with holiday lights for years, drawing hundreds to drive by his home at 969 Ekman Drive.
But this season, Foy’s home is really in the spotlight, now that it has been selected by ABC-Channel 7 as a finalist in its Great Chicago Light Fight which honors the best holiday displays in the Chicago area.
Foy, 49, said this is the fifth year he had offered an animated light show, but that his years of decorating with holiday lights goes back much farther.
“I’m been doing lights forever, like 15 years at least, but I added the animated light show five years ago,” Foy said. “Up to this point, I’ve not been in contests – various local awards, things from the park district, but nothing major.”
That all changed this year after he said his girlfriend convinced him “he had to submit his house” as an entry in this year’s “Light Fight” contest.
“I submitted my house this year. They (the TV station) had a link that was there for a couple of weeks and they invited people who wanted to send videos, and I uploaded it and got selected,” Foy said. “I don’t know what their criteria was, but I got an email last Friday that I’d been selected as one of the five finalists.”
Other entries this year include homes in Elk Grove Village, Tinley Park, Lynwood and Naperville.
Foy’s girlfriend Jennifer Speaker, 49, of Villa Park, said the suggestion to enter the contest came after a girlfriend of hers brought the contest up “because we were talking about Christmas lights in general.”
“She saw the contest on ABC-7 and that I should submit his house,” Speaker said. “That’s when I went online. I talked with Brett first, and then had him enter it.”
Foy said his display includes somewhere around 400 props and more than 70,000 total lights. It is a project requiring him to begin set-up sometime in late summer or early fall.
This year’s show includes 70 minutes of music with 20 different songs along with “every color possible” being displayed along with the music, he said.
“I’ll start at the end of August because I do a big Halloween show at the end of October which is really an excuse to put up Christmas lights in September and October because it’s still warm out,” he said. “I would say there are literally weeks of effort to get everything installed and wired and working. I’d call it a month of effort and a full-year project to get it ready.”
Virtually all of the displays, he says, he has done himself, adding that “I buy the lights from manufacturers or vendors who sell the lights – everything is pretty much DIY. You can’t buy this stuff.”
Storage, Foy admits, is an ongoing problem, requiring that “every space in the house, garage, basement and attic” be used.
Jennifer Speaker said she and her two children have been a small part of the set-up process as well as working the crowd that drives by.
“I helped with some of the displays. My son and daughter go out to meet some of the people that are watching the show and hand out candy canes,” she said. “We’ll stand out there during set-up and see if he (Foy) likes certain effects of something or what my opinion is on color.”
She said the current display “is truly beautiful in person” and that the music and light show are perfectly coordinated.
“Brett really enjoys putting the show together for the little kids and really enjoys seeing them excited over the lights. He does a Halloween show and did one for the pandemic,” she said. “He likes seeing the kids being carried from the cars to hear some of the songs. No amount of videos or photos can really capture it and give it justice. It just gets better and better.”
The contest closes Wednesday with the winner to be announced late Wednesday or Thursday, Foy said. A public announcement, he added, is supposed to be made at 6 a.m. Friday.
While being in the contest has been fun, Foy insists winning won’t change what is behind his efforts each year.
“It will be a neat validation but it (the recognition) isn’t going to change anything or what I’ll do to make the show better next year,” he said. “If I do it next year, if anything, it’s going to drive more traffic here for my neighbors to have to deal with. The intrinsic rewards are the kindness that I get from strangers, the thank-yous, the stories about how it changes their holiday and affects their children and people with special needs – non-verbal people. I do it for myself but there is so much positive feedback.”
To vote for any of the light shows in the contest, go to https://abc7chicago.com/great-chicago-light-fight-christmas-lights-holiday-show-near-me/12478085/.
To watch Foy’s own show, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZOv0j9Ewug
David Sharos is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.