Alexandria Couple Already Planning Next Christmas Display
ALEXANDRIA, LA (AP) — The Christmas season just ended but Walter and Jackie Monkhouse are already planning for next December.
The Alexandria couple is known for its elaborately decorated house. Each year, the Versailles address boasts about 250,000 lights, a working train and a choreographed light show set to music.
"Before we take everything up, we're planning for next year," said Jackie, also well-known locally as Pineville High girls' basketball coach for 33 years. "I've been decorating since 1976. But the animated part really started to grow about 20 years ago."
There are lighted Christmas trees, about 350 strobe lights throughout real trees and the yard, snowmen, bubbles and a tree decorated with vintage toys dating as far back as the 1920s.
"We just like Christmas," she said. "We like looking at our own creations."
Their Magic Christmas display has its own Facebook page, which Jackie Monkhouse updates with details. She also uses the website www.magicchristmas.org.
They start lighting the display in mid-December, but they begin setting up in September. The two of them do everything from manual labor to sequencing and choreographing — Jackie Monkhouse's favorite part.
Setting the lights to music takes 10 hours of work for every minute of music. This year's 38-minute set featured 13 songs. She hopes to add a few more next year.
"It's a terrific challenge to pull off without a glitch," she said. "I do that (work) in the summer when it's too hot to do anything else."
They've collected the decorations over the years, and there always are some that don't make it into the year's display.
Walter Monkhouse, 72, said his wife checks each string to be sure the bulbs all work before they're put away.
Better now than while putting up the display, Jackie Monkhouse said.
"The hardest part is the set-up," she said. "It takes the longest and there is a lot of pressure to get it up in time. When I grab a box of lights, it's got to work."
Walter Monkhouse is excited by a new feature they plan for next year. Rather than individual strings of lights, they'll use "pixilated lights" with the technology used to create billboard images. They provide up to 16 million different combinations and shades of colors, he said.
But his favorite part is the train, which he leaves out for several months to repair for the next year. Packing up doesn't have as much of a time crunch.
"It depends on what kind of mood we're in and the weather," Jackie said. "We work on the nice days."
Jackie Monkhouse quickly debunked rumors that there won't be a display next year. They enjoy providing it as much as people enjoy driving down Versailles to catch the show, she said.
"We both stay very high on Christmas," Walter Monkhouse said.
– by AP/ Reporter Leigh Guidry with The Town Talk