For the Staudt family, the holiday season begins way before Thanksgiving.
That’s when Mike Staudt says he starts planning his elaborate Christmas lights display, which this year includes a much-talked about Prince-themed intermission.
"Christmas has always really meant something to me," Staudt said. "As soon as I had a house of my own, I’d put up as many lights as I could. Then, I became the guy who put up the inflatables and became as gaudy as I could."
Staudt is just one of many Twin Cities area Christmas light connoisseurs who’d rather be Clark Griswold than watch him in the movie "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." Their over-the-top light displays seem to get a little more extreme every year, driven by advances in technology, social media and a growing tradition for families to cruise their communities in search of the best drive-by show.
While dozens of holiday light shows in the Twin Cities area are technically more impressive (the more lights, the better), Staudt’s two-minute Prince intermission shines brighter for other reasons.
10,000 purple lights
Fans are honoring the memory of Prince this holiday season in a variety of ways: adorning their Christmas tree with a Prince tree-topper, attending a dance party or tour at Paisley Park, or playing his 1984 song, "Another Lonely Christmas," on repeat.
But none of those things is quite as ambitious as covering your home in more than 10,000 purple lights that blink in unison to "Purple Rain."
That’s exactly what the Staudt family did to its home in Chaska. The "Lights on Pascolo" display (named after their street) started as a holiday celebration three years ago. But this year, it has taken on some added meaning as a tribute to the late pop star.
"We’ve always been casual Prince fans, but his passing really hit us," Staudt said. "We regretted not taking advantage of having such an iconic star so close to us, and never attended any of the shows or concerts at Paisley.
"Prince’s passing meant so much to our community that we decided to do a short dedication during the intermission of our Christmas light show to honor him,” he said. “We’ve received compliments on this part of our show, and a few people have even mentioned it made them teary-eyed."
The entire "Lights on Pascolo" show is 14 minutes long. The "Purple Rain" intermission also includes a spinning Prince love symbol, and graphics of the Purple One all set to "Purple Rain" if you tune your car radio to 87.9 FM.
Staudt spends the whole year prepping for his dazzling display (which opens with a "Star Wars" theme and also includes a Snoop Dogg Christmas song). The thousands of lights run on 8,500 computer-controlled channels that allow for color-changing lights, and robotic effects synchronized to Christmas music.
Between building props, programming, editing audio tracks, setup and testing, Staudt estimates he puts at least 200 hours into the project. And what about the cost for all of those lights?
"It’s less than you would think," Staudt said. "Everything is high-efficiency and LED. My whole show runs off 1,000 and 1,200 watts, equivalent to having your microwave on for four hours a night."
Neighbor support is key
Staudt said he was inspired to create such an intricate display by others he’s seen over the years, including one on Park Point Road in Waconia.
There’s a dark side to all those lights, however. The cars and commotion at the Waconia display caused neighbors to complain. The homeowner ultimately decided to turn the lights out.
"I’m nervous about that, too, but so far my neighbors have been really supportive," Staudt said. "When I’m climbing around on my roof in October, they holler at me: 'Hey, Clark!' "
In order not to disturb their neighbors, the Staudts display the lights and music only at certain times. The light shows can be seen from 5:40 to 9 p.m., Sundays through Thursdays, and from 5:40 to 9:40 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The show repeats every 20 minutes. The Prince-inspired intermission lasts about two minutes.
The home is at 3850 Pascolo Bend in Chaska. Before you go, check out the "Lights on Pascolo" Facebook page for information on how best to see the show.
This year, the Staudts are collecting donations for the Ronald McDonald House at Children’s Hospital, which helped the family during their son’s heart surgery last spring.
Staudt said: "We’re enjoying our 15 minutes of fame, but it’s really about doing something good for a place that gave us a sense of home when we needed it most," Staudt said.
Here's the Straudts' video of the Prince tribute intermission, as well as the entire show. Then, check out another impressive Prince holiday light display in Chicago.