Holiday light show on Happ Road is more than meets the eye
Northfield teen’s display raises funds in honor of his brother
If you’re in the mood this month for a heck of a Christmas music and dancing lights show, take a drive to the Endre family’s home at 635 Happ Road in Northfield.
And if you like what you see and hear, you might also want to consider visiting the family’s GoFundMe page, which is raising money for the Angelman Syndrome Foundation.
Matt and Kristen’s son, Conor Endre, 17, has the neurological disability, which from birth has caused him to be nonverbal and suffer from seizures.
The light and music show and the GoFundMe page, now in its second year, are the brainchild of Conor’s brother Brendan, a 15-year-old New Trier High School sophomore.
“We want to raise money to fight my brother’s disability,” Brendan Endre said. “All proceeds go to the foundation to help find a cure.”
Last year, they raised $1,700. Already this year, they’ve raised $800, and the show continues until New Years Day, running 4:30-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and 4:30-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
The special feature of the 5,000-plus light display is that each light was synchronized by Brendan to a 45-minute continuous music track featuring classic and modern holiday songs.
To listen in, all a viewer has to do is drive up in their car and turn their radio on to 91.7 FM. Lights are on the roof, a make-believe tree, bushes and four arches, which can project 4.2 million different colors.
“Everything moves. Everything blinks,” Endre said.
There is also a singing Santa on the chimney, and a speaker on the front lawn for pedestrians.
“Conor loves the lights and the whole holiday season, and we put his favorite song on there, ‘Feliz Navidad,’” Endre said.
Other songs include “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Holiday Road” from the movie “Christmas Vacation,” and “All I Want for Christmas.” Each song is accompanied by its own special sequence of lights.
Planning and setting up the display have been impressive logistical feats. Endre and his close friend Brandon Belian decided to more than double the number of lights from last year’s show.
“We sort of did a Griswold thing,” Endre said, referring to the over-the-top Christmas decorations put up by the Griswold family in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”
Using his computer and technical skills, Endre spent months programming each individual light to turn on and off at specific moments in each song, and each song took two to three weeks to fully synchronize with the lights.
“I’ve been pretty good with tech my whole life, and I did a lot of googling and got some help from people online,” he added. “There have been a few headaches but it has been a pretty cool experience. I’ve seen a bunch of these my whole life. There is one in Wilmette and one in Northbrook Court, and it has truly given me a whole new appreciation for the effort that goes into doing this.”
Endre, Belian and some friends from the neighborhood started setting up the lights in October.
“I was kind of messing with it to see what looks good,” Endre said, adding his father helped with the roof decorations.
Friends and family have all pitched in to spread the news of the display on Facebook and throughout the neighborhood. As well, Hofherr Meat Co. on Happ Road in Northfield has “done a great job helping us get the word out,” Endre said.
Endre estimated the household electric bill will only go up about $100 for the month because most of the lights are energy efficient LED lights.
“I will help my dad pay for it,” he said.
As for daily management of the display, there is none, he said.
“Once I finished everything I put it into a certain program and it flips through the songs, so I don’t have to touch anything from this point on,” he said. “It’s in a computer. It just starts on it’s own.
“It’s been a dream to do something like this, to spread some holiday cheer, and all of our neighbors have been very cooperative and supportive. It’s been really nice to see the community come together.”
“I am super proud of Brendan and Brandon,” said Brandan’s mother, Kristen Endre, and not just because of their efforts to raise money for the foundation. “They really do it to give something back to our neighborhood and Northfield in general.”
Alan P. Henry
Alan P. Henry is a New York Times bestselling author, six-time national fiction contest prize winner, and 35-year newspaper veteran with the Chicago Sun-Times, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, 22nd Century Media and The Record.