Santa came early this holiday season with a new Christmas light show in the capital city. With nearly a million lights and festive favorites, one drive-through light show is embarking on its first year in the downtown district.
The Nebraska Christmas Lights Show takes place in Haymarket Park in the parking lot of the Saltdogs Stadium until Jan. 1. Tickets are available online and in person for the event, starting at $40 per car.
Constantine Syniy, the president of the group, said he moved from Ukraine to Nebraska with two kids and his wife with $150 in his pocket. After a few years, he opened his own business, All-Pro Heating and Air Conditioning, in 2008.
Now over a decade later, Constantine said he has been thinking about retirement and decided he wanted to find a way to spread Christmas cheer. He began planning the event in early 2021.
“I realized I really want to do something, which was bringing joy to families,” Constantine said.
This will be the first year of the Nebraska Christmas Lights Show, and Constantine said it is being sponsored by his company. This is Constantine’s first time doing a large project, and while he has a deep passion for technology and electronics, he said this technology was unlike anything he’s ever worked with.
“It was a very steep learning curve, as well as a lot of fun,” Constantine said.
Throughout the past year, Constantine said he was assembling his team and designing his light show. Nikki Chipps, the general manager, came along in August after previously working with Constantine at his heating and air company.
Chipps said that the show is about a mile long and will take visitors about 20 minutes to go through. She expects around 1,000 to 1,500 cars to attend each night. Double lane traffic allows visitors to drive through at their own leisure allowing each car to decide how long to look at the multitude of lights.
“There’s about a quarter of a million [lights],” Chipps said. “If you were to count every single light that was actually in the pixels, it would be roughly a million.”
The lights weren’t available for purchase in the U.S., so Chipps said the LED lights had to be shipped from overseas.
“It’s not the same as anybody would have on their house or at a traditional light show,” Chipps said.
In addition to the lights, Chipps said that guests of the event will receive complimentary hot chocolate and a 7-inch cookie to share. A banner is posted upon entering the show asking visitors to tune their radios to 96.5 FM for synchronized songs.
“We have a number of songs that the lights will synchronize to and that the props will sing to and things like that,” Chipps said.
In order for the whole show to run together, everything had to be custom built. Constantine said a couple months of the production time was spent in designing the show.
The group spent many hours working together in the shop assembling pieces as they came in. However, when he tried to order the materials in May, many vendors told Constantine that he was too late.
“A lot of vendors would not take orders anymore because of supply chain drop-off and stuff like that,” Constantine said.
Besides the struggles in getting the materials across seas, Constantine said that Lincoln has been very supportive of the show. In the past months, he’s had to obtain special permits and work with the fire marshal, police department and traffic control in order to have a functioning event.
“It was very heartwarming,” Constantine said. “The city was very, very supportive and provided guidelines for directions for how stuff was done.”
By the time summer was over, the show was designed, except for one specific piece that Constantine was struggling with.
“I couldn’t design the most important part of my show, which is Nativity scene,” Constantine said. “Because I’m very passionate to keep in mind the reason for the season, which is the birth of Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I’m very passionate about it, and I couldn’t design that.”
As deadlines passed, his co-workers continued to ask him why he hadn’t designed it yet. Constantine said he spent a lot of time thinking, praying and meditating about what it could entail until finally everything came clear.
“I realized with this technology, you can generate every possible color of the light, green, red, blue whatever,” Constantine said. “But one color is very hard to generate with this technology, it’s white.”
While they are able to create a color very close to white, Constantine said it’s not a pure white. Instead, it’s a mixture of different colors. While it’s not obvious to the naked eye, it still bothered Constantine.
He said he wanted his Christmas light show to be a celebration with The Grinch and Santa, but it all leads to the finale of the Nativity scene.
“The Nativity scene is completely bright, white color,” Constantine said. “It’s steady, it’s not blinking, it’s just steady white. It’s a part where very sacred, and I really want people to slow down when they pass by Nativity scene. It’s a good opportunity to slow down and think about what the reason for the season and meditate.”
After watching families travel through the show in about 20 minutes, Constantine said he’s noticed parents drive by and take a moment to explain to their kids what the Nativity scene is.
“It’s also important for us adults just to think what’s the reason for the season,” Constantine said. “It’s not just the kids. It’s for every ages to slow down and think about.”
In addition to the light show's finale, Constantine said his show involves festive characters who walk around the park to interact with kids.
“When I see kids rolling the windows down and yelling and screaming and just happy to see Yeti, Grinch, Santa, Elf, that’s a very cool feeling,” Constantine said. “I’m just like that’s worth it even if one child is going to be happy and one child is going to remember that.”