Lakefield family's 'Christmas card' shines bright
Ackermann Family Lights a Lakefield holiday tradition
LAKEFIELD — People noticed last year when the Lakefield home on the corner of Seventh Avenue South and Minnesota Street wasn’t as bright as usual during the holiday season.
It was the first time in more than five years that the Ackermann family didn’t have its usual Christmas lights show flickering around their home, which locals have enjoyed since 2012.
With a new baby welcomed into the family — and after evaluating what additions the production needed — the show is back this year, and it’s as bright as ever.
“It’s our Christmas card to the community,” said Jim Ackermann, a Lakefield farmer who installs the light show annually with his wife, Jeanine, and sons Jeremiah, Jared and Jesse. “We’re glad people enjoy it.”
The Ackermann family light show is currently synchronized to nine Christmas tunes heard on 92.3 FM once drivers come within close proximity of the home just east of Hage’s Oil in Lakefield. The show currently lasts between 30 and 40 minutes and will be on display daily from 5 to 10 p.m. through Jan. 6, 2020. The family plans to add more songs yet this season as they’re able to finish syncing more tunes up to lights.
Although a hobby, the time often devoted to syncing one song to lights easily amasses that of a week of full-time work, Jared said. Similar to video editing software, the family spends significant hours at their computers working on just seconds of the show.
Jim, Jeremiah, Jared and Jesse all program synchronized songs to add to the show. Their styles are so distinct that any of them would be able to guess which of the Ackermann men was the creative genius behind a particular piece, which is something Jeremiah loves about the family tradition.
“We get to create a display everyone in the family can put their touch on with the songs they sequence,” said the eldest son, who is a software engineer at Daktronics in Brookings, South Dakota.
“We all like to make our lights sing,” Jim added.
Creating a show the community enjoys and looks forward to definitely motivates the family to continue, but there’s more to it.
“It’s our mission,” Jeanine said.
The show focuses on what the family believes to be the true meaning of Christmas.
“We try and be Christ-centered and cross-focused with it,” Jim said. “Because this is when we celebrate getting the best present — the present that lasts forever, not presents that are just stuff.”
Holiday lights have long been a tradition for the Ackermann family even before the inception of the extravagant production.
Jesse showed a particular interest in lights when the family lived out on the farm.
Eventually, the family advanced to its first electronic show, which functioned out of one box in their front lawn.
Jeremiah got more interested in the light show, and with each year, the production has gotten more technologically advanced. Cords and cables extend from all directions outside the home, helping bring power to about 9,200 lights and 4,281 pixels.
Among the most noticeable changes the family made was about three years ago, when they added pixels.
Once predominantly a blue and white show, the pixel advancement afforded the family more color and effect options to add to its show.
Installation of strand after strand of lights is no weekend job. Jim usually begins hanging lights in October when the weather is still nice. The three brothers usually string the trees with lights and prep other aspects of the show up to Thanksgiving.
“There’s a lot of troubleshooting,” Jesse said.
It creates a lot of action around the Ackermann household during that time, but Jeanine doesn’t mind.
“I like it because I get my kids home,” she said about the family tradition that keeps the family closer.
Between the family’s personal investment in the show and the community’s response, it’s safe to assume the show will be around for many years to come.
Updates to the lights show is announced on their Facebook page, Ackermann Family Lights.