Annual Madera light show up to 37,000 lights
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune Robert Bishop’s house on Avenue 20 1/2 is a holiday favorite display that visitors tune in to radio as lights flash in sync with Christmas music playing on FM 100.9.
After building a house and running an industrial electric company, Robert Bishop decided the next step for him was to use his property as the stage for a light show.
Bishop’s property on Avenue 20 1/2 is covered in 37,000 lights that have been synchronized to 13 different songs.
He has spent 1,300 hours synchronizing the lights with the songs and has used 7,000 feet of extension cords in order to cover the front of his property with lights.
“I like doing this. I was always a Christmas guy,” said Bishop. “This is my thing.”
He started this 11 years ago after he and his wife, Lucero Bishop, were influenced by a video they were sent of a house with a synchronized light show.
Bishop said his wife was the one who influenced him to set up the lights, “She gave me the OK to do lights and about $27,000 later we had the lights up.”
In mid-October, Bishop starts unpacking and setting up his lights so that he can have them up and going by the day after Thanksgiving.
From Sunday to Thursday Bishop has the light show on FM 100.9 from 6 to 9:30 p.m. On Friday and Saturday the lights are on from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m.
“I figured people, once they heard about it, would drive out here and look at it and they do,” said Bishop.
There are lights covering every eve of Bishop’s house. Lights are on the bushes and trees in front of his house, the Redwood trees along his driveway have lights strung up around them, lights are on the fence surrounding his property and he has lights strung on the grass in his yard.
“If I were to just leave all my lights on, I would probably have around a $3,000 bill, but right now it runs about $1,200,” said Bishop.
In order to synchronize the lights to music, Bishop has separated his yard into 240 different zones that have a designated length of lights.
The zones are then manually programmed to light up in different patterns depending on the song that is played.
For some songs, all the lights on Bishop’s display come on.
“When a song goes boom-boom-boom and hits all the lights at the same time, the inside lights dim,” said Bishop. But this hasn’t stopped him from continuing his light show.
The show started out with seven different songs but has incorporated new ones over time like the songs “In Summer,” “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” and “Let It Go” from the Frozen soundtrack. He has also incorporated the song “Everything is Awesome” from The LEGO Movie.
Bishop and his son, Alfredo Bishop, are the main people who have created the song and light synchronizations.
“I’ve probably done four songs and Alfredo has done six,” said Bishop. The other three songs have been done by family and friends.
Not only does Bishop program his lights and songs himself, but he has also built the spiral trees on the side of his yard and the main tree in the middle of his property.
Bishop does not just put up the lights for entertainment value, but also to serve philanthropic means.
For the past 10 years, Bishop has held a fundraiser to raise money for Valley Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House.
During this fundraiser, Bishop either employs or dresses up as Santa Clause for kids to see. Around 700 people attend this fundraiser each year.
He has had the Berenda Elementary School cheerleaders perform as well as the Madera South High School choir perform during this event. He raises money by selling hot chocolate, coffee and cookies.
This year, however, Bishop did not hold a fundraiser, but the light show will continue until January 1.
Over time, Bishop has learned to mitigate the stress of setting up and programming all the lights by hiring people to do the set-up process.
“The last two years I haven’t even touched the lights. I have the guys come out set everything up,” said Bishop.
The only thing Bishop must do is validate that everything is working and that nothing needs to be replaced or fixed.
“I don’t have to stress no more,” said Bishop. “I found out in my life I’m trying to eliminate stress.”
Bishop’s light show remains something that he looks forward to and enjoys doing.