Brandon Bullis wanted to do something special as a Christmas tradition. Six years later, his family’s home has become a Christmas tradition on its own.
The Bullis family’s light display, called Edwards Landing Lights, draws thousands annually to view the illuminated home in the eponymous Leesburg neighborhood. The display features more than 20,000 lights that blink, flash and change colors while synchronized to music.
Bullis was inspired by an elaborate display from a former neighbor in Texas. After moving to Virginia, the electrical engineer wanted to put on a display of his own. Encouraged by his wife and family, Bullis began an increasingly elaborate Christmas light set up.
“Once you learn to blink one light to music, blinking 3,000 or 20,000 is just multiplying it out,” Bullis said. “It sort of grew from there.”
Though much of the physical infrastructure has been built up through the years, set up still takes hours of work. Programming the lights can take another 40 hours. Using a Raspberry Pi, a popular low-cost microcomputer used by hobbiests, Bullis programs 3,000 switches, each of which have to be set up to 1/20th of a second increments to align with the music.
This year, Bullis and his family picked Penatronix’s rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy.” Bullis said he searches the internet each year for a Christmas song with a strong beat and a unique song. He then begins visualizing what that song would look like if it was seen in lights.
In addition to the annual Christmas display, Edwards Landing Lights puts on a show around Halloween. By its second year, the Halloween display went viral following a segment from the Elliott in the Morning show on DC 101 radio. The increasing notarity inspires Bullis to enhance and improve the display each year.
He has done so with the support of his neighbors. Bullis said Edwards Landing has embraced the popularity and he has been sensitive in trying to minimize disruption. The show is intentionally scheduled to avoid times when people are returning home from work while also not staying on too late to disrupt people while sleeping.
“It’s really worked out and everyone been really supportive,” Bullis said. “They look forward to it every year.”
The neighborhood itself has galvanized behind the charitable opportunity the display brings. Edwards Landing Lights has partnered this year with Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital, and Bullis expects the display to raise several thousand dollars to help children that are ill during the holidays.
Children are one of the best parts of hosting a display, Bullis said. Along with elderly visitors, Bullis said some of the most rewards aspects of the show are seeing their astonished reactions.
“We love to see the looks at the little kids faces as they’re staring at it,” Bullis said. “Towards the end of 30 minutes watching, they’ll start dancing and it’s really nice to the kids with the Christmas gleam in their eye.”
This year’s show will be on loop from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. each night through Christmas.