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Christmas light show brings friends, neighbors together

HAMPSTEAD - A snowman, an angel, Santa and a reindeer were blinking on and off in time to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Then to "Dancing Queen" by Abba.
And later, to "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen.
A group of nearly a dozen friends and neighbors gathered in front of a home in the 3900 block of Saxon Court in Hampstead, warming themselves by a fire lit near the house's driveway with hot chocolate and cider nearby.
The home was the Wendes', and the people were gathered for the Wende Light Show Christmas Eve Celebration, which has become an annual event for the family of three and their friends. Choreographing the lights in time to myriad songs is a father-son tradition. And passing out cookies and drinks to those enjoying the light show on Christmas Eve has become one, too.
Lance Wende and his son Kyle, who's a sophomore at Juniata College, sit down together every year and work through the process of programming each light extension cord (there's 32) to each song.
It takes about eight to 10 hours to program one song, but once it's done, it can be saved and re-used the next year. And this year, the father-son duo had 20 songs working on a 45-minute loop on a radio station that passersby can tune to in their car.
"You're telling each set of lights when to come on and when to come off for each split second of the song," Lance Wende said. "It's fun."
Kyle Wende does a lot of the programming. It's a project he looks forward to putting together with his father every year - and one they've been doing since Kyle's senior year of high school.
Because consistently every year when Kyle Wende was younger, he would ask to make a musical light show. It was rather expensive, Lance Wende would say, until three years ago when the project became Kyle's Christmas gift.
"He was super excited," Lance Wende said, "and said, 'Sure, let's do it.'"
There were about 10 songs the first year. Now, there's double that, with songs spanning a variety of genres. There's the typical Christmas songs with a good beat, like Mannheim Steamroller, and "Firework" by Katy Perry.
Yet, another tradition was born out of the Wende Light Show. It's one that brings the community together to celebrate the holiday season as the Wendes build a fire and pass out cookies and warm drinks to passersby, friends and neighbors.
"It makes the season," said neighbor Velma Dietz.
Wearing a Mrs. Claus costume, Flo Wende sat by the fire with her husband and son sitting nearby. Friends huddled, chatting about how the lights were in tune with the songs just right and how the show fostered the Christmas spirit. And groups of cars were turning into the cul-de-sac and stopping to watch as the snowman, the angel, Santa and a reindeer blinked on, then off, to the time of the music.

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