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WESLEY CHAPEL — Ron Popolillo is no Carson Williams, that Ohio electrical engineer whose choreographed Christmas lights inspired a Miller Lite commercial and caused so many traffic problems that he had to shut it down.
But he has been using lots of lights for years and recently drew inspiration from one of Williams' creations, a choreographed display at the nearby Shops at Wiregrass.
"I went to the mall," said Popolillo, 64, who retired from New Jersey shortly after having a heart attack. Popolillo said he worked as a facilities manager for Dow Jones.
Popolillo has decorated his 2,000-square-foot, one-story house with rows and rows of colored lights that dance to holiday music.
"Each year I have a theme," he said. "Sometimes I do blue. This year I did red and white. Except for the green around the base of the trees."
Drive by Popolillo's house and you'll see red and white candy canes lining the flower bed. Big, old-fashioned red lights sit just below the roofline. The trees are wrapped with the green lights. In the front yard, a snowman sits in an inflatable globe and a Ferris wheel spins. Riders include Santa Claus, a reindeer, a penguin and a polar bear. Two horses and a metal Christmas tree complete the picture.
As long as he owned a home, Popolillo has always enjoyed decorating during the holidays. Each year, he and his wife had a party.
"It started when we were young. About 10 people got together because we didn't have any money," he said. In 2000, the last year he hosted an event before moving, he said he had 100 people.
"We hired a bartender and had entertainment," said Popolillo, who used to sing and play keyboard for a local band. One year, they had a belly dancer. The next year included male dancers "because the women got mad."
Popolillo continued the tradition after moving to Florida. This year's party, scheduled for last weekend, was expected to draw about 40 people.
Each year, the lights also got more elaborate. This year, he went to the Shops are Wiregrass and saw Symphony In Lights, a display in which 250,000 lights blink to the sounds of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Popolillo liked what he saw and decided to incorporate the choreography into his own display. He bought a programmable light controller that allows users plug in up to six cords. The devices set off the lights in sequence.
But the owner has to decide what set goes off in what order to the music.
"That's where you have to play with it," said Popolillo, who estimates he invested $500 in this year's holiday decorations.
Popolillo says he tries to be considerate of his neighbors and runs the show only from 7 to 9 p.m. So far no one has wrecked their car in front of his house.
"Maybe that's because not many people know about it," he said.
Lisa Buie can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4604.
CORRECTION: Earlier versions of this article contained an incorrect address for Popolillo's display.