Normally, the crowds get heavy in the days before Christmas, where the wait can be an hour and a half long, with cars backed up for miles, a phenomenon that baffles Mr. Gay, an engineer. “Why would anybody do that? I’d turn around in a heartbeat,” said Mr. Gay, who uses his home’s popularity to raise money for various charities, raising more than $400,000 over the years. “I hate waiting for anything.”
This year, hundreds of cars started gathering the weekend after Thanksgiving, with roughly 500 vehicles visiting on a Thursday night in early December. By mid-December, there were thousands of cars a night, with local constables helping to direct traffic. “I think people are just trying to boost themselves a little bit in this difficult year,” Mr. Gay said. “It’s been such a dark year, which makes a light display even brighter.”
This might be a banner year for lights, but for those who live alongside the boldest displays, a solid month of revelry can be a bit much. James Spica, 62, who lives across the street from Mr. Gay’s property, has an unobstructed view from his bedroom window of a display that he likens to the Las Vegas Strip. “I’m in the woods with deer, foxes, hawks, it’s beautiful,” he said of his nine-acre property, which he moved to 30 years ago from the Bronx. “If I look out the other window, I see the Macy’s Day parade, it’s pretty different.”
For the past two years, Mr. Spica has been away during the holidays, one year in Barcelona and another year at a yoga retreat. But this year, because of the pandemic, he’s homebound, and dreading the light show, which is accompanied by a musical soundtrack synchronized with the changing lights. Visitors tune their FM dials to a low-power radio station programmed by the Gay family that plays the prerecorded music that the lights are choreagraphed to. Mr. Spica can hear it emanating as cars open their windows to get a better view of the show.
“I don’t want to be the Grinch that stole Christmas,” said Mr. Spica, who is retired from a career in telecommunications. “It must make some people feel happy to come see this ridiculous thing, but it doesn’t make me feel happy.”
“The neighbors are split, a lot of them love it,” said Betsy Maas, the town supervisor for Union Vale, noting all the money raised for local charities. “But the traffic is a pain in the neck.”