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Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News
Marty Slack sets up 12 inflatable Christmas characters as part of his synchronized, 75,000-light display.

The holidays are Marty Slack's time to shine — literally.

With more than 70,000 Christmas lights adorning his front yard, the Murray resident has taken holiday cheer to a new level.

"It's an addiction," Slack said. "It gives me the same excitement I had as a little kid with the butterflies in the stomach and everything."

Slack's over-the-top Christmas decorations have wowed Utahns for five years, and Slack aims to do it again Friday night as he flips the switch on his "Christmas Utah" display.

But turning the lights on is just the beginning.

A computer program controls all the lights, flicking them on and off in-sync with music playing on Slack's own radio frequency. The moving lights give the impression that nutcrackers are marching, deer are running through the yard and Santa's sleigh is taking off from the roof.

"I always get to the point where I don't think I can't pull it off," Slack said. "But I can't not do it. It's such a big part of who we are."

The annual light display, which runs every night through New Years, is also a big part of Christmas for many Utahns who crowd outside the Slack home throughout the holidays. Slack said he has even had visitors drive up from St. George just to see the lights and once had a family from China stop by on their Utah vacation.

"The reaction of the people makes it all worth it. To make a memory or put a smile on their faces, it's just a blast to do it," he said.

But prepping for the big night takes a lot of time and money. Every year, Slack takes off more than a month of work as a Salt Lake County fire captain so he can put up the lights and make new displays.

This year, the newest addition is a homemade light display featuring Santa riding a motorcycle and a garden of oversized inflatable characters. Although Slack started putting up the displays in September, he has been planning for this season's light show for more than a year.

Slack is even a member of a group called "Planet Christmas," which holds regular conferences and workshops on everything from display welding to attractive light design.

"There actually is a whole community of freaks like me all over the world," Slack said.

When Slack is not outside putting up the displays, his wife Micalle Slack said he's at the computer synchronizing the music with the light show. Slack spends 10 hours programming his computer for every minute of light display.

Besides the time, Slack also runs up an electric bill four times the family's usual amount and spends thousands of dollars on new decorations each year.

"I've got a really patient family because I get nutty," Slack said.

The display has grown a little out of control, Micalle Slack said, adding that she and her three children are expected to pitch in and supervise the display every night until New Year's.

"We have to sit in the dark in the house during Christmas light hours. He doesn't want to distract from the display," she said.

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But daughter Stacie Slack, 22, doesn't mind the lights. The real problem, she said, is that her father and a neighbor play an annual game of one-up-manship as they try to outdo each other's decorations.

Oren Shepherd, the Slacks' neighbor, said there's no real competition, just a friendly collaboration to bring some holiday spirit to the neighborhood. Shepherd, 73, and Slack even volunteer to decorate their other neighbors' homes to light up the entire block.

The Grand Lighting Ceremony for Christmas Utah will be at 9 p.m. Friday at 5631 S. Whispering Pine Circle in Murray. The display will be open every night until New Year's Eve.


E-mail: estewart@desnews.com