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Light Up Blackfalds will feature a unique light display

posted on Nov 29 2017

When the snow hits the ground and the calendar is almost ready to flip to December, many parts of the world are consumed with the holiday spirit. Holiday fragrances fill the air, Christmas carols can be heard on every radio station and decorations are hung outside houses and businesses.

Despite the rest of the world, the Town of Blackfalds began the decorating a little earlier than most.

This year, the inspired display of lights was orchestrated before November even began. Thanks to Shaun Knowles, Town Park Operator and master decorator of Light up Blackfalds and Karen Saunders, a new addition to the event will be showcased.

A pixel tree, which will be focused in the centre of the park, was created by Shaun and Karen at the beginning of September, when the idea was brought to life. The tree was designed to play music while incorporating a unique light display.

“We just wanted to expand the park with a new feature. We’ve been talking about doing it for the past three years but just how to do it and the funds to do it stopped us,” he said. “This year [Karen] told me we had to do it.”

Shaun said that he was doubting the timeframe to get the tree finished because of many other job responsibilities as well as putting the entire park together.

“We normally leave the lights on the big trees in the park all year, but this year we took them out - that’s an added week of putting lights in. So, we have to minus that from our time frame, plus trying to build the pixel tree, plus all the programming. I was leery but Karen was pushing for it. Once we started working on it, I realized it might actually happen.”

In order to figure out how to put the tree together, the two studied YouTube videos from other creators of the pixel trees, how to program the lights and music and most of all, how to build the tree.

Along with having to use creative abilities, Shaun also had to keep in mind the public area and the risks that go along with that fact.

“We have to prevent [vandalizing] from happening so I had to build it nice and strong. A lot of the examples were just structures with just strings of light coming down off it which would make it really easy to just pull down, so I had to end up coming up with a new way,” he explained. “We chose to do it with half inch conduit, solid enough that it can’t be pulled down but is light enough that it won’t weight too much.”

Shaun put together the conduits, drilled holes in either side to fit the items together, stabilized the center and then placed lights all around the structure. He spent 18 hours programming the music for the tree, which he has since tested and said everything went well.

The pixel tree has a total of 32 channels featuring 1,600 lights that will be moving with the music that Shaun programmed.

As a team, the project took roughly two weeks in total to create the project, which is a rough estimate from Knowles.

“I started trying to figure out how to the build the base in September but after that it sat there for three weeks, so it got set aside. Whenever we had down days or cold days or rainy days, then we would start working on it again. I think maybe all in all it took about two weeks to put together.”

The pixel tree cost $5,000 to build in which the funding was provided by Stantec and will be presented by the team at Light up Blackfalds tonight, November 29, 2017.

The free event will begin at 6:30 with a performance by Dancer’s Edge and Christmas carols by the Iron Ridge Junior Campus choir at 6:45 p.m., a short speech by Stantec and a few words from the chair of the Recreation, Culture & Parks Board who will start the countdown at 7:00 p.m.