You can’t miss Mike Staudt’s house during the holiday season. It’s the one with more than 10,000 colorful lights set to music and programmed into a 14-minute show.
The line of vehicles passing by and media coverage also help. But it’s not about the recognition — he just loves technology and the holidays. What else would you expect from a Geek Squad employee?
“I’ve always been into Christmas lights since I was a kid,” Mike said. “We bought our house in 2012, and I started being that guy in the neighborhood with all of the inflatables and other decorations. Last year was the first time I computerized it all.”
He uses nine control boxes, a miniature computer and a software program to choreograph and run “Lights on Pascolo,” the show he named after his street in Chaska, Minnesota. It runs from 5:40 to 9 p.m. most nights.
This year, he added a 90-second tribute to Prince, the music legend from Minnesota who died earlier this year. During the intermission of the main show, the music changes to Purple Rain and the house turns purple and shows some images of Prince and his infamous Love Symbol.
“Our family has always been casual Prince fans. We knew all the hit songs,” said Mike, who lives about 5 minutes away from Prince’s Paisley Park compound. “We’re doing this as a way to honor the community and his fans.”
A year of planning, building
He spends any free time he can find throughout the year planning the display and developing the perfect soundtrack (he figures about 200 hours). And behind all of the computer-programmed lights and music, there’s a less technical skeleton of props he has constructed from “a ton of PVC, PVC clips, wood, rebar, tomato cages, metal poles and many, many zip ties.”
“I’ve always been a hands-on guy,” he said. “When I first saw some of the other shows around town, I was just mesmerized. I couldn’t fathom how they did that. So I started researching and tinkering and checking out some online forums.”
There has been much trial and error along the way. This year, Mike fried a whole control board and wrecked a critical connection on another one while trying to hook everything up.
All the time and effort is worth, though, when Mike sees the response from people who come to watch the lights on a cold December night.
“We have fun with it,” he said. “We try to create some joy and holiday magic with it.”
This year, Mike and his family also are using the light show to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House, which helped them when Mike’s son had heart surgery last year.
“It’s our family’s way to give back,” he said.