The Grinch couldn’t steal this Christmas.

Steve Seifert knows a thing or two about show business, so when thieves made off with the new strobe lights the Highland Park resident had purchased for his blockbuster holiday display, he followed Noel Coward’s advice that “the show must go on.”

The expensive strobes that Seifert had ordered took six months to arrive due to the ongoing supply chain backups. This fall as he was working on the display outside his home, he left the new lights unattended for five minutes. When he returned they were gone.

When Seifert mentioned the theft to a neighbor, word spread quickly. Several neighbors started a fund drive to help cover his loss. Local real estate agent Steve Hyland spearheaded the drive. “My family and I have enjoyed Steve’s displays over the years,” Hyland said. “Stealing his lights was a creepy thing for somebody to do. This felt like the right thing to do.”

Seifert was surprised by the gesture, which he described as a “very generous” amount of money that one of the neighbors presented to his wife in his absence. “If I’d been home, I would’ve told them I didn’t want the money,” he said. “But it restores your faith in people.”

Seifert holiday lights
Steve Seifert stands beside a Santa with electric guitar, one of the groupings of 30,000 lights in his Pinehurst Avenue yard that will twinkle in rhythm to the tunes he broadcasts on 88.1 FM. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Not able to secure replacement strobe lights in a matter of weeks, Seifert is going ahead with the usual 30,000-light display that has graced the northwest corner of Snelling and Pinehurst avenues for the past decade. A former sound-and-light man for major rock concerts across the U.S., Seifert puts his skills to work every Christmas with an animated display that is synchronized to recorded music broadcast over FM radio.

Seifert holiday lights
Santa and Mrs. Claus wave to passersby at Pinehurst and Snelling avenues where Steve Seifert’s holiday display
wraps around the corner and extends all of the way to Highland Parkway. Photo by Brad Stauffer

“I do it just to make people happy and feel good,” he said. “The most fun is seeing little kids in cars with their faces pressed up to the windows.”

Seifert’s avocation is a far cry from his career in the music industry setting up the concert sound and light systems for the likes of Bob Seger and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at such venues as Madison Square Garden in New York City and the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado. Still a partner in an advertising agency, he is semi-retired now and enjoys putting his production skills to work with the holiday display.

“I like to keep busy,” he said.

Seifert begins work on the display shortly after Labor Day. He powers the lights through a cord that runs from an enclosed gazebo in his backyard. He turns the electricity on about 5 p.m. every evening from Thanksgiving to mid-January and leaves it on until 10 p.m., or later on weekends.

The LED lights “don’t burn that much electricity,” he said. His biggest investment is in the accompanying equipment. Using his own FM radio transmitter, he broadcasts about 100 different songs that are synchronized to the twinkling lights and the dancing figures in his yard, including a life-size Santa and Mrs. Claus and a rock band composed of Santa, several elves and reindeer. Passersby can hear the music by tuning their car radios to 88.1 FM. Seifert has set up speakers in his yard so that pedestrians can hear the music, too.

The strings of lights are wound through the trees and bushes from Seifert’s house to the Parkway Family Physicians building across the alley where a Santa figure will again be dancing on the roof.

Dr. David Ness has helped host the display for the past seven years or so. “We’re proud to be a part of it,” Ness said. “My patients have enjoyed it. For him to do that for the community is a nice thing. He does all the work.”

Fans of holiday lights have come from as far away as Northfield to view Seifert’s display. “I had a couple from London come by and tell me how much they enjoyed it,” he said. “It makes you feel good.”

Chartered buses and limousines have parked nearby to enjoy the show, and groups of Christmas carolers have paused to sing along with the music.

Appreciative viewers have dropped off gifts at Seifert’s door ranging from homemade fudge to cookies to cash. He especially remembers a note that was left by three young children along with handmade snowflake cutouts and their donated allowance money.

“People must wonder how long a 70-year-old guy will keep climbing up those ladders,” Seifert said.

If he gets his wish, they can count on many more Christmases.


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Seifert holiday lights
The holiday display in Steve Seifert's sideyard lights up like a gentle snowfall in colors of blue, green and red. Photo by Brad Stauffer

—Carolyn Walkup


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