Haley Lorenzen, East Valley Tribune | Dec 7, 2019
Over two million Christmas lights, 85,000 feet of electrical wire and 10,000 hours of planning came together to create Arizona’s largest walk-through synchronized light show in Mesa this holiday season.
Vertuccio Farms, 4011 S. Power Road near Elliot Road, is hosting the second annual Lights at the Farm, which combines 21 classic holiday songs and dazzling light displays with plenty of other family-friendly activities.
“I enjoyed putting this up, but it’s always nice to just walk around and listen to what people are saying and look at the reactions on their face. The children, their eyes light up, and you know, it takes you back to when you were a child,” said Daniel Dille, the director of Lights at the Farm.
Dille has been in the Christmas lights industry for over 16 years, creating his first show in Oregon, which is still running.
However, Dille said the one thing that sets Lights at the Farm apart from most other Christmas light shows is the fact that visitors can go at their own pace.
Unlike many other shows where attendees ride a train or a wagon while viewing lights, individuals at Lights at the Farm can walk where they choose.
“If you get on the train, you’re set to a time,” Dille said. “And then you’re done. This, they could come in and spend two hours and go through it and they don’t have to feel like hey, I’m constrained to where I can go.”
Vertuccio Farms was established in 1979 by Joe and Maria Vertuccio, who had immigrated from Italy. Originally, the Vertuccios planted watermelon and citrus, and later added other crops and the option for customers to pick their own produce.
Their son, Cono Vertuccio, now runs the farm with his family. Although they still grow plenty of produce, Cono said they now focus more on the “agri-tainment” side of things.
Although this is only the second year of Lights at the Farm, Vertuccio Farms has held a fall festival for over two decades.
“It’s a perfect collaboration. We’ve always, for over 20 years, we’ve dealt with families for our fall festival and other events. Danny is more of a technical guy and he had the knowledge and the ability to build a show like this and we just put two and two together and it just works,” Vertuccio said.
Dille and Vertuccio were first inspired to start a Christmas light show a few years ago, after Dille took him to a friend’s Christmas light show in Alabama.
“It kind of sparked the ideas of how this would all come together,” Vertuccio said.
Dille also explained that since Vertuccio Farms holds a fall festival, it is much easier to set up for the light show, as most similar light shows take place in vacant lots where everything has to be hauled in.
Thankfully, he said, having the light show at the farm saves his team a lot of time for set up.
The light show itself takes about an hour to walk through if you want to hear every song, Dille said.
“It’ll be an hour before you’re gonna hear the same song again. And by then, you’re gonna be so high on hot chocolate that it doesn’t matter anyway,” Vertuccio added.
With a team of around 10 workers, the lights only take around two weeks to set up.
However, it took six months to program each song by the millisecond to the lights.
“The lighting and song process are done through sequencing software. What you do is you take a dimmer pack, which everything is connected to a dimmer pack, that dimmer pack receives a command and the command says turn this on in red, turn this on in white, and it sends those commands down the line,” he explained.
The two million Christmas lights are made up of a mixture of LED strands and RGB full color strands, with over 98 percent of them lit with LEDs. The lights are connected with other equipment with over 14 miles of cable.
“One guy worked every day for six months for six to seven hours a day programming this show. It’s very intricate and very tedious work,” Dille added.
This year, along with the traditional holiday songs, there will also be a special section of the light show dedicated to veterans, Dille said.
Not only can families check out the Christmas light show, there’s a wide array of activities for children and adults alike.
After grabbing some hot chocolate and making some s’mores, visitors can go ice skating, play Ping-Pong, or get lost in the pallet maze, while children can take photos with Santa or meet Anna and Elsa from “Frozen”.
“You know, we feel like we’re giving back to the community. We feel like we’re actually doing something really good for people to come out and enjoy,” Vertuccio said.
Dille added, “You don’t know what impact you’re making for that parent. It may be the only thing they get to do for Christmas, and it was something they could afford to do. Maybe they don’t get to go anywhere else, but at least they came in here and walked out with a smile on their face.”