Five years ago, the 22-year-old Bel Air native started programming lights to music in front of the house where he grew up. Now, he has expanded his show to more than 30,000 lights and 15-minute slots of continuous music and light programming. He collects donations to the Make A Wish Foundation through a box in front of his house and a link on his website.
We talked to Paulsen about what inspired him to organize the show and how it’s grown through the years.
Why start a lights show?
I’ve always been into production stuff working with the theater at Harford Tech High School where I went and I thought that this would be a fun project. It definitely took off from there. Christmas is my favorite holiday, so I thought that it would be fun to do something big. It’s a free and fun thing for the community to do in December.
What can people expect at this year’s show?
We usually have a two-minute song play and then a short pause and then the next song and light display starts. But this year we’re doing things differently. We’re going to have 15-minutes of nonstop music this year. I’m working on putting together the best part of a whole bunch of songs and getting it all programmed with the lights. Also, because it can get pretty busy, we’re asking people to come in 15-minutes increments starting at 5:30 p.m. each night to help with crowd control.
What types of music do you use?
We stick to Christmas music for the most part, but we have a couple of other songs that we include for fun. We’re bringing back the song “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen.” I remember sitting in my house and hearing the crowds throughout the night signing along to that song on the streets. We’re also including “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana because I know the kids love that one, too.
How did you learn how to do this?
A lot of it is trial and error. In the beginning I was just pressing buttons and figuring out what happens and how to make the technology, lights and music all work together. I also watched a lot of tutorials on YouTube. It’s fairly simple once you get started.
What is your advice for others who want to step up their holiday lights game?
I would say that it’s much easier than you think. I use this program called Light-O-Rama where you can plug in dozens of different things into this one control system. I also use Pixel lights to get all of the colors that I want. Anyone can have a large lights display. You just have to have a lot of time and patience.
Brad Paulsen’s Light Show
1722 Edwin Drive, Bel Air
Dec. 1 through Jan. 1, 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday