Merced County Times Newspaper
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Don’t miss viewing Lights on Sunset, a local holiday tradition

The Lights on Sunset in Merced has been thrilling residents of all ages for more than a decade. The special 2020 edition can been seen nightly through New Year’s Eve.
The Lights on Sunset in Merced has been thrilling residents of all ages for more than a decade. The special 2020 edition can been seen nightly through New Year’s Eve.

For over a decade, two homes in Merced at 252 and 300 Sunset Drive, owned by the Libecki and Ryan families, have put on an extensive animated holiday light show synced to vibrant renditions of traditional Christmas music, as well as classic rock and hard rock music.

People are invited to drive up and park (without obscuring the vision of other guests) so everyone interested can watch the show and simultaneously listen to the music on their car radios at 107.7 FM.

This year, the shows are running nightly from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., ending on New Year’s Eve.

Those who stay until 10 p.m. will get a treat. Shutting down the show at the end of the evening will be a whimsical tune from the past that’s well-known.

John and Jena Libecki began the tradition 14 years ago at Christmas. Sean and Michelle Ryan next door joined in 2008 when they bought controllers and really jumped in. The tradition has now grown to three homes because another neighbor, David, is participating this year.

Describing how Lights on Sunset came about, Jena Libecki told the Times, “There was a TV commercial on Thanksgiving Day the year before we started. It was a beer commercial, and the lights would go back and forth on the house and it said, ‘Happy Holidays’. My husband and his brother announced, ‘We’re going to do that.’

“We all bought a bunch of stuff, and started doing the light show, and we continued it.

“We bought controllers so my computer program could make the lights come on and off with the beat.

“My husband, John, is a self-taught computer programmer, and one of our sons is knowledgeable in troubleshooting.”

Explaining who selects the music, Jena said, “If I don’t like the music, I won’t get it done. In this type of hobby, there are blinkers and faders. Blinkers music is the hard beat and you can blink the lights, and the fader music is slower. I’m a blinker.  One of the blinker songs I picked is from a Christian rock band, Skillet, and it’s called ‘Feel Invincible.’

“I take suggestions from other family members. Two of my sons suggested a rock song six or seven years ago by August Burns Red. It’s an extremely heavy metal band, but they did the song, ‘Carol of the Bells’, and I heard the first 50 seconds and I wanted it.  We put it in the next year’s display, and it’s one of my favorites to this day.

“Last year, we added ‘Sound of Madness’ by Shinedown.”

Describing the amount of work put into the spectacular show, Jena told the Times, “There are 9,600 lights just on the mega tree in the neighbor’s yard at the Ryan house, and it’s redone this year with LED lights so it’s spectacularly bright.

“Michelle [Ryan] and I work on new elements or anything we have to rewrap with lights during the summer.  John works all year long, repairing things.  We put everything out  in the yard the Saturday after Halloween, and it takes us all the way until Black Friday to get all the glitches out.

“A week after we light up, everything is working perfectly, and we can relax.  The lights are automatic, so we can go out of town or whatever we want to do at that point.

“We’ve got one new song this year, ‘Tracers’ by Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  We went to see them in Fresno a couple of years ago, and the light show was so good that we decided to add it to our show. I’ve been working on getting it added since March, and it will take a half day tomorrow and most of tonight to get the last 20 seconds done. I’m really excited about it.”

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