Jacksonville Times Union 2017

Front Page Story by Matt Soergel

Darren Huffty long ago learned to embrace the nickname "Clark," after Clark Griswald, America's most famous over-the-top Christmas-light guy.


It's not as if he couldn't see it coming, after all, when with every Christmas he started turning his house on the Westside into a lit-up extravaganza that would have put a blissed-out smile on the face of Chevy Chase's suburban dad in that National Lampoon Christmas movie.


So Huffty, who is 58, goes with it: He stores his annual display (almost 100,000 lights and more) in a big shed called Clark's Workshop, and signs off on his web page with a cheery "God bless us al!  Clark"

Still, he's even gaining some notoriety as plain old Darren Huffty, especially after winning the $50,000 top prize on ABC's reality TV show called "The Great Christmas Light Fight" back in 2014.  Yes, they have reality shows for every slice of reality.


His award-winning, traffic-stopping display on Jacksonville's western fringes - a light show set to music - has only gotten bigger and more elaborate since then.


By virtue of its sheer magnitude, it's a family affair for the Huffty's, who have three grown children and numerous relatives who pitch in.

But it's clear there is one Huffty in particular who drives the whole enterprise.  Asked about the family's role in all this, Huffty called his wife, Ann over.


It's the guy from the paper.  He wants to know if you're as crazy as I am"


Ann gave a quick laugh; "Oh absolutely not.  He's certifiable.  I'm not quite there yet.  


She'd have a way to go.


For she is married to a man who attends three conventions each year for what he calls the "Christmas-decorating community," who often wear shirts that pronounces he has OCD: Obsessive Christmas Disorder.

As a kid back in Texas, he always wanted the brightest house on the street.  That wasn't going to happen: They didn't have a lot of money.  But his mother let him do a small section of the place.


When he had a family of his own, he was able to indulge, and now his display has doubled several times.  About 11 years ago, he saw an animated display set to music - and that's when it really went crazy.


He figures he has at least 96,000 lights, perhaps more.  He hasn't counted lately, and he has been adding eery year.

He has 3 1/2 miles of extension cords.  A centerpiece display, which he calls his pixel tree, is 18 feet high and has some 2,300 pixel lights just for itself.


It's all run by computer in the garage that controls nine computer networks and 27 computer boards scattered throughout the yard.  


He has two talking animatronic snow people, Sunny and Snowy, who - along with a talking reindeer head - serve as emcees for the show.


He's paid a voice-over artist to give these creatures voices; if you're going to do this, you might as well do it the right way.

The Huffty's house is at 10580 Crystal Springs Road, well west of the I-10 and I-295 interchange, and 14-minute shows run from 6:30 p.m. until 10 p.m., each night (except when it rains) through Jan 1.


Visitors come from all over.  Some just drive by, slowly.  Others park in the middle lane on Crystal Springs and gawk, while others park in a nearby retention pond or shopping center and stroll over to take it all in.  An off-duty police officer watches over it during peak times.


The Huffty's get regulars, who comment on how things have changed from year to year and speculate about what next year ight be like.  Darren likes to chat with onlookers, handing out candy canes, Ann calls them his "fan club."

Both have managerial jobs in the corporate world.  But he's also been hired to do other holiday lighting projects, including Deck the Chairs at the beach and the Jacksonville Children's Chorus building downtown.


For him the breakthrough is pixel technology, which allows him, through programming, to control the color of every single light bulb at any particular time.


"I tell each bulb what color to be.  Everything that's doing what it's doing, I told it to do that, to the beat of the music," he said.


Thus you get sweeping waves of color moving across his 1 1/2 acres, bursts of color here, another there, as familiar Christmas songs play.

Bound in by candy-cane fences, he's run out of room to expand sideways, he said, so now he's going up.  "My entire house this year is pixelated," Huffty said.


The show changes each year, but every year at least two things remain constant.  There's a manger scene and there's big capital letter message over the whole thing; JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON.


Amid all the lights you can't lose sight of that, he believes.


Telling that message: That's important to him, he said.  So are the smiles on faces big or little, new or familiar.

That's why, every year, he pulls all those lights out of Clark's Workshop, set up new wire frames to receive those lights, fire up the two snow people and the talking reindeer head, programs all those lights to do what he tells them to do.


But why, he's asked?  Why really do all of this?


"I think everybody wants to be good at something," he said.


For him, that means another Christmas, out on Crystal Springs.

2015 First Coast Magazine

First Coast News 2015

We made the local Jacksonville magazine in 2015.  We were honored to tell our story.

Christmas Light Extraordinaire

What a complement!  It brings us joy to be able to share our love of Christmas lights with the community.

The 2014 Great Christmas Light Fight

Here is our 10  minutes of fame condensed from the 2014 show.  What a lifetime experience.  We thank God, ABC, Triple Threat Productions and all our friends who pointed them to us for this experience.

Action News - December 2014

Here is one of the news stories the year we were on TV.  All the major networks came out.  It was quite the experience.

First Coast News - December 2014

The people at First Coast came out to interview us on the night we aired on the show.  It added to all the excitement.

A Hometown Story 2012

WJCT the local Jacksonville PBS station produced a video about the light display of Christmas on Crystal Springs and the work of our family.