NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (FOX 56) – Like most students these days, Zachary Nielson spends a lot of time in front of his computer. He’s not always doing homework, but he is working on his home.
He’s always tweaking a synchronized light display he designed. Such displays aren’t that unusual until you consider Nielson programmed his first one when he was 10-years-old.
“I went to an engineering camp when I was younger,” Nielson said. “It just sparked something.”
So he bought some equipment and software and taught himself how to connect lights to an audio track, making sure each beat of a song triggers an effect.
Now, at age 14, his hobby has spilled out into his yard, up on the rooftop, and into his neighbor’s yards. He estimates he used close to 20,000 lights and more than 100 extension cords.
He’s also added a donation bin along the sidewalk so people who come to his show can leave items for the food pantry at Porter Memorial Baptist Church.
“Zachary is an amazing kid and we’re so blessed that he’s chosen to connect Packin’ the Pantry to Wild Lights,” said Erika Clark, pantry volunteer. She said small food drives like this “can very well be the reason the doors of the pantry are open or closed.”
His goodwill has earned Nielson a Saint Nickname.
“A lot of people call me Mr. Christmas,” he said. “I love that title because it’s what I love to do. I love Christmas, I love lights, I love everything to do with Christmas.”
He has spent about 300 hours programming this year’s show, and he’s been connecting cables and stringing lights since August. His parents finance the project, buying lights and paying the electric bill, but the labor is all his.
“It makes my heart tingle that people are liking something I’ve done,” Nielson said.
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Zachary’s mom used to ask him to hold off decorating until after Thanksgiving. Aimee Nielson said he told her if he waited that long, he wouldn’t have the show ready until Christmas Eve.
Aimee shared, “I’m like, ‘well, OK.’ Then he’d say, ‘It’s warm outside now, so I need to get on the roof now. What if it’s icy in December?'”
She said she couldn’t argue with that, so they let him start when he wants to.
The show is called Wild Lights, but the creator is mild-mannered with the simple goal of spreading joy to the world in an electrifying way.
“I don’t want to stop. It’s a thing I want to just keep going.”
The show is at 112 Bernie Trail in Nicholasville and will run through Jan. 8.