State College

State College house shines big and bright with holiday cheer

How cool is this house?

Eric Stoner's Penn State holiday light show in State College. If you drive on Harvest Run Road, you can get a closer look.
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Eric Stoner's Penn State holiday light show in State College. If you drive on Harvest Run Road, you can get a closer look.

Let there be lights.

Eric Stoner and his brood have once again decked out their humble State College abode with enough twinkling bulbs to guide a small ship into port.

But instead of boats in the water there were just cars on the street. Some slowed as they passed the house, careful not to hit the other vehicles that had come to a complete stop on the side of road.

Motorists native to the neighborhood know to expect this kind of thing between the months of November and January, the same way that visitors of the mall have to anticipate a certain uptick in Bon-Ton’s foot traffic this time of the year.

“Usually between the hours of 7 to 9 p.m. the cars are all lined up along here,” Stoner said.

Usually between the hours of 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. the cars are all lined up along here.

Eric Stoner

After three years, the family’s annual display of holiday bravado — and windows that spell out the words Penn State’s infamous rally cry — can be semi-officially designated a tradition.

And quite a grand one, at that.

Even a cursory inventory of the lawn’s luminosity would have to include a group of singing lights, a rainbow-themed rendition of “Jingle Bells” and a large faux tree that pays homage to some of “Star Wars” most memorable lightsaber battles.

In other words, not the sort of thing that can be thrown together in a turkey-induced haze the day after Thanksgiving.

“We’d sit outside in the summer and drink beer and put lights together,” Stoner said.

You can’t teach that kind of commitment — there’s hope for the computer skills, though.

To coordinate all of the different lighting systems that are operating in tandem, the Stoners use a laptop and a program they downloaded (for free) called xLights.

Stoner’s wife, Karen, typically handles most of the programming duties, a complex duet of effects and timing represented on the screen by a series of icons.

The couple’s 8-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, took a crack at programming the portion of the show devoted to “Jingle Bells,” a show-stopping number that puts the lights through their paces to successfully incorporate her love of rainbows.

I think anybody could do it.

Eric Stoner

She’s fond of the song, too.

“We sing it on the bus at school going to field trips,” Elizabeth said.

Each year, the Stoners collect donations for a different charity at their website, statecollegelights.com. This season, the honor will go to Janet Weis Children’s Hospital at Geisinger Medical Center.

Elizabeth’s younger sister, Emma, received spinal surgery there when she was just 7 months old.

In the past, the Stoners have served as a source of inspiration and information for those looking to experiment with a light extravaganza of their own. It may not be as hard as it looks.

“I think anybody could do it,” Stoner said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready

The home is on Harvest Run Road.

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