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About Utah: Murray man's light show is a tradition

Published: Monday, Dec. 13 2010 12:38 a.m. MST

MURRAY — In the category of Be Careful What You Wish For, You Just Might Get It, file this one under "Every Year."

Twenty Christmases ago, Micalle Slack said to her husband, Marty, "Honey, we need to put up some lights."

"We," as in "you."

As is customary, Marty balked. He didn't want to do it. He wanted to watch football, or take a nap, or make a sandwich.

But eventually, as is also customary, he complied. The kids were little and exuded the Christmas spirit. Micalle insisted.

So Marty climbed up on the roof and started hanging lights.

It was like taking crack.

"I got into it," says Marty. "I'm still not sure why."

Evidence of just how much he got into it is on full display every night at the Slacks' house — 5631 S. Whispering Pine Circle in Murray.

It's easy to find. Just look for the glow.

Marty's light show (www.christmasutah.com) has become a Christmas tradition not just for the Slack family but for the throngs who flock to Whispering Pines Circle every December. They drive by slowly in their cars or park at the nearby LDS church on Vine Street and stroll around the cul de sac. On weekends it's not uncommon for over 1,000 cars to roll through.

There's plenty to see. More than 100,000 lights are hanging on the house or in the yard, illuminating all sorts of images. And it's all choreographed to music. Signs alert viewers to tune their radios to 99.9 FM so they can hear the music. The whole show takes 17 minutes and then recirculates.

The concept, Marty notes, is similar to what goes on at the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas, where synchronized music plays as the water fountains change shapes.

Marty, an assistant fire chief for the Unified Fire Authority, does a new display every year, with different images and different music, at an annual cost of anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000. But it's not an expense, it's a hobby. Some guys take golf trips to Scotland. Some guys sky dive. Marty does lights.

He doesn't charge admission and never will. His pay is "watching the people come by and seeing the big smiles on their faces. That's what keeps me going. It's a whole lot of work but it's worth it to see the people enjoying themselves and the kids jumping up and down and I can just imagine they've come from the mall where they've been arguing with people and standing in long lines. This is something positive. A lot of people make this an annual tradition."

On most nights, the Murray police help direct traffic.

Marty remembers years ago the first time the police arrived to deal with the congestion.

"I thought they'd just be mad," he says. "I walked out and said, 'I'm sorry, do you want me to shut them off?' The sergeant said, 'Are you kidding? You want us to be the ones to tell people they're not going to look at Christmas lights? We're going to stand here and direct traffic.'"

On they've stayed, the cops and the lights, for two decades now, getting brighter every year. Marty's house has been featured on any number of national television shows, including "CBS This Morning," spotlighting extreme Christmas lighting.

"Oh we couldn't stop now," says Marty.

He agrees, though, that it's not always easy for Micalle.

"She's a hostage in her own home at night," he sympathizes. "It's almost impossible for her to just run out to the store."

But like her husband, Micalle has accepted that their Christmas light display is the Slack family's gift to the rest of us that will never end.

"The other day I asked him if when we retire can we retire from the lights and he said no, so I guess not," she says.

And she is the one who got it all started.

Lee Benson's column runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com.

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