Laurel Avenue Lights kicks off with free concert this year

By on November 15, 2017

Wendy and Rich Motz usually begin decorating their home for Christmas starting in July. The grand
unveiling of the intricate light display is Nov. 30.

Everybody always asks Rich Motz the same two questions about his spectacular Laurel Avenue Lights display.

How many lights are there? And how much does it cost to buy them all?

“I have no idea, on both counts,” says Motz, with a smile. “Let’s just say there are too many lights to count, and I have been adding more lights over the years, so I have lost track.”

This will mark the fifth year that Rich and Wendy Motz, of 659 Laurel Ave., have undoubtedly beat out the competition in Lititz for the most impressive display of holiday lights. They are the kind of no-way-you-can-miss-them lights that will make you stop and gaze in wonder.

For one, these are not just holiday lights. These are choreographed lights set to music. There are two separate shows, each running 28 minutes, and alternating during the holidays.

The Christmas light display at the home of Rich and Wendy Motz, 659 Laurel Ave., grows in complexity
each year.

Each year, Rich Motz has aimed to reach higher and out-do the display he did the previous year. So for this year, the Motzes will be having a real, live concert right in the middle of their driveway, with set designs and lighting by local pros TAIT and Stray Lighting.

The star of the Nov. 30 concert will be Judy Pancoast, who will be singing her original “The House on Christmas Street” holiday hit, which was nominated for a Grammy Award. It’s all a part of Pancoast’s The House on Christmas Street 2017 Charity Tour.

Pancoast is traveling from the east to west coast performing her song for charity. She will also be making a stop in Manheim while she is in Lancaster County.

The Motzes have been using Pancoast’s new traditional song in their shows, and 2017 marks the second year that the Laurel Avenue Lights will be a benefit. Last year, it was for the Lititz Public Library, raising $1,000. This year, the benefit will be for the Lititz Fire Company.

“We were really excited that Judy Pancoast decided to make our house a stop on her tour,” says Wendy Motz. “I heard the song a few years ago, and encouraged Rich to use it in his light shows. We use it in both shows.”

When Rich Motz said that decorating for the holidays gives him a lift, we didn’t realize this is what he meant.

Pancoast’s song was written in 1998. It was a tribute to those super decorated houses she has loved since she was a kid. Houses like Rich and Wendy Motz’s house.

“You know, the ones that can almost be seen from outer space and make the passerby wonder how the homeowner is managing to pay the electric bill,” says Pancoast.

The Motzes, by the way, use energy-efficient LED lights and the entire holiday display only increases their electric bill by about $100 a month.

A few years after Pancoast wrote her song, the new phenomenon known as animated lighting gave decorating enthusiasts even more impact for their displays. “The House on Christmas Street” became their anthem. In 2010, Pancoast wanted to gain some publicity for her song, so she decided to take it on the road with her Charity Tour. All she asks from her hosts is one-night’s lodging, which in this case, will be at the General Sutter Inn.

The opening night of Laurel Avenue Lights is set for Thursday, Nov. 30, from 6 to 7 p.m. After the concert, both shows for 2017 will be premiered. Wendy Motz will be providing free hot chocolate and cookies, with help from family and friends.

“That’s my main contribution to this. It’s really Rich’s baby,” says Wendy Motz. “That and my support of his passion for doing this.”

Rich Motz turns the garage, living room and den into storage space for all his lights and features, like stars and Santa’s sleigh. The dining room table is transformed into a programming center for the light display. There are control panels, electronics, and circuit breakers set up for the shows. Work on setting up the Christmas lights starts in July.

On show nights, the Motz family just eats dinner and goes about their normal routine, even though cars are lined up all along Laurel Avenue. Even their neighbors seem to support the fun of being on “Christmas Street.”

Laurel Avenue Lights has become so popular that it made sense to turn it into a charity. All proceeds collected from the collection box on a tree at the front of the property will go toward the Lititz Fire Company. Members of the fire company are also expected to pass the boot on the opening night.

“Ron Oettel (fire chief) is very excited about this. He lives nearby and the fire company will be closing off the street for the concert,” says Motz.

It takes a lot of planning, and a lot of lights, to pull off the musical, synchronized display the Motzes have become famous for.

Motz is well-known as board member for Lititz Springs Park. While he foots the bill for the light display and electric costs, he has been busy recruiting help for extras like insurance to cover the street closing and sponsors for advertising the event. TAIT Towers, Clair Global, Stray Lighting, and Bomberger’s have already pitched in with staging, sound, lighting and a lift to help Motz reach the roof.

“We are looking for roofer who may be able to help us get some things up on the roof, and we are in need of a videographer or a person with a wide angle video camera who would be willing to get this year’s show on YouTube,” says Motz.

Laurel Avenue Lights has become a community event, with Phil Davidson, members of the Motz family, friends and neighbors helping with everything from design to baking cookies.

“It’s just a lot of fun, and I look forward to doing this every year,” says Motz. “For me, it’s pretty much Christmas all year.”

To find out more about Laurel Avenue Lights, check out Laurel Avenue Lights on Facebook.

Laura Knowles is a freelance feature writer and regular contributor to the pages of the Record Express. She welcomes feedback and story tips at lknowles21@gmail.com.

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