There’s a small piece of land on Lyon Street in Amsterdam that quite literally lights up like a Christmas tree when the sun goes down.
Wednesday night 150,000 colored bulbs flicked on, marking the official start of the Kristy Pollak Christmas Event’s 14th consecutive year. The roughly 200-foot drive-through park was illuminated with blinking snowmen, soldiers and scores of other festive shapes.
“It started at my house years ago,” said Dave Falso, who runs the light show. “It got to the point we were doing the whole block, so about eight years ago we moved to Lyon Street.”
For most of the month-long season, cars pass through the loop with no supervision, but on the opening night, volunteer C.J. Thomas walked the length of the display, bundled up, watching the cars drive slowly through.
“We started getting everything ready in September,” he said, “This a crazy number of lights.”
He walked along the loop, pointing out the newest displays. Each season the bulb count has grown. Now the small park is jammed with animated light displays, and thanks to LED technology each one is a whole lot brighter.
A series of 10 arches span the roadway, blinking in series.
“Each one of these,” Thomas pointed to a single LED bulb on one of the arches, “cost over $1.”
Falso, with donations from local businesses, made the investment in LEDs to save on the electric bill. A few years ago, running the set-up for a season cost well over $2,000. This year he figures it will be a third of that.
In the last eight years, the Lyon Street light show has become a local tradition. In the few minutes Thomas spent talking about LEDs, half a dozen cars rolled through.
Nick Martielli poked his head out the window of his minivan to say hello.
“We’ll be through here another 30 times before the season ends,” he said. “We even have our great grandkids along.”
In the back, two little girls in car seats looked a bit dazed from all the lights.
“They have a real workshop,” said 6-year-old Lawrita, pointing at a wire mesh Santa’s workshop model.
The Kristy Pollak Christmas Event is a bright, festive addition to any evening in Amsterdam, but according to Falso, it means much more to the community. Drivers are free to toss a few dollars into a donation box for the Make a Wish Foundation. Roughly half of the thousands of people passing through give a little, which adds up.
Last year $6,000 was raised, a number he hopes to exceed this year.
“It’s all about the kids,” he said. The event was named for a young cancer victim, who the show was founded to benefit.
Before last year, Falso awarded the donations to worthy children in the area independently, but said working with Make a Wish is more effective. On his own he could only help a few kids, but since working with the foundation, they’ve granted the wishes of nearly a dozen ill children in the area.