If you have been across the W.C. Holmes Bridge heading south into Gulf Shores on a recent foggy night and wondered what was lighting up the sky, you aren’t alone.There have been questions on …
If you have been across the W.C. Holmes Bridge heading south into Gulf Shores on a recent foggy night and wondered what was lighting up the sky, you aren’t alone.
There have been questions on social media inquiring if the lights were The Wharf light display or a UFO.
Instead, it is Riff Becknauld’s 36,000 light holiday display located at 750 Bear Creek Cove.
This is the second year Becknauld has set up the RiffMas Light show. Last year the show had a respectable 4,000 lights synchronized to music. The show was a hit with visitors.
“Last year the response was pretty incredible because everybody said they had never seen anything like it,” Becknauld said. “We kept getting feedback on how much people loved the show, so I decided it was time to invest and go bigger. My intention was not to go as big as we went this year, but things creep up on you I suppose.”
With a background in computers and concert lighting and a penchant for tinkering, Becknauld created his first Christmas light show in 2006. He was inspired by a video that went “viral” in 2004 of a light show set to “Wizards of Winter” by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
“The video became so popular that Budweiser picked it up and used it in a commercial with the Clydesdales. I was like how is this guy doing that? I started looking it up and started playing around and building my own controllers. I had a very rudimentary system a long time ago and then took some time off,” Becknauld said.
Once he had some free time to get back into the hobby, things had changed and technology advanced. First, it was normal LED lights and now it is Addressable LEDs that allow control over each light in the string individually. Once he figured out how people were creating the light shows with the new technology, he built a new show. When he and his wife moved to Gulf Shores two years ago the show came too.
“We moved here, and I brought the show. Last year the response was pretty incredible,” Becknauld said.
The response was so incredible that Becknauld, his wife and her parents (whom they reside with) all wanted to see the show grow.
How do you go from 4,000 to nearly 40,000?
To grow the show nearly 10 times larger, Becknauld joined a group of light display hobbyists who combined their order for a shipping container full of 500,000 lights. He also went to two industry shows and purchased props like the large Christmas tree and candy pieces.
The entire house is outlined in lights, a curtain of 4,072 lights hangs in front of the garage door and each of the six candy canes in the yard hold over 100 lights each. The 25-foot Christmas tree required the assistance of the Gulf Shores Fire Department to erect and is lit up with 5,270 lights.
Becknauld has been working all year. Each strand of lights was painstakingly untwisted before being poked into the holes on the props like the arches and candy canes. And just like a beautifully done cross stitch, the back is just as pretty as the front. When you see the display, you might be blown away at the hours it must have taken to physically put the show together, but it is the programming that takes the most time.
“When it comes to the actual programming of the show that is where it really takes time. For every minute of the show, it takes anywhere from four to eight hours to program. Every three-minute song takes roughly 20 hours of programming,” Becknauld said.
The entire show is 48 minutes with an additional 30 minutes of additional songs that viewers can add to the song queue by visiting the show’s website, www.riffmaslights.com. The show’s playlist includes everything from holiday classics like “Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley to “The Season’s Upon Us” by the Dropkick Murphys.
The show is free for all to enjoy but people tried to give Becknauld donations for the show. This year he decided to partner with The Lighthouse of Baldwin County. The nonprofit agency serves victims of domestic abuse, their children and adult victims of sexual violence. Those enjoying the show can donate through the riffmaslights.com website or hand them to Becknauld who is often outside in a Santa hat handing out candy canes. A locked donation box will be erected soon.
“It has been enjoyable to watch people and the way they receive the show. It's funny because you would assume most of my crowd would be families with children, but I would say 60% are people in their 60s, 70s and 80s,” Becknauld said. “We are trying to bring something fun and enjoyable to the community and bring up the spirits.”
Drive by the Logan home and take in the RiFFmas Light Show at 750 Bear Creek Cove, Gulf Shores. Tune in your car’s radio to 93.1 FM and enjoy the show.