One of the main attractions during Dickens Victorian Village’s season is the spectacular Holiday Light Show at the Guernsey County Courthouse in downtown Cambridge. This did not happen overnight. It took over a year to design the first light show – a gift from Grant Hafley, with programming help from Joel Losego.
According to his mother, Joel has always been interested in lights. In fact, as a child, his favorite toy was Lite-Brite. At a very young age, his parents said that he had the lights on their Christmas tree blinking in rhythm.
When he was six years old, his summers were spent helping his dad on construction. He saved the money his dad gave him that summer to buy a CB radio, which he still has.
As a middle school student at Buckeye Trail, he began working at AVC Communications in Cambridge. He continued working there until he graduated from Ohio University. Helping owner, Grant Hafley, an electrical engineer, Joel learned to design flashing lights with control boards for area dances.
He also volunteered doing sound at his church, the State Theater, and Living Word during that time. Sound intrigued him, Joel remarked, “I always knew what I wanted to do.”
Then Joel headed off to work in various states on national television networks developing internet and website experience. Basically a home body, Joel served as a beta tester for new software in his spare time. While working for ESPN at special TV events, it became necessary for him to travel all over the country.
Joel missed his family during this time and knew he needed to make some changes. Who should call but his old friend, Grant Hafley. Grant said he was looking for someone to buy AVC Communications. But he wanted a person who would keep the community spirit alive.
The moment his life changed was six months later in 2005 at Disney World, a magical place indeed. Joel talked to Grant Hafley during the Disney Parade, and finished the deal for the purchase of AVC. He was on his way back to Guernsey County, a place he never expected to return.
About this time Grant Hafley, who supported Dickens Victorian Village, wanted to do something special to draw more people to town. Lighting up the courthouse to make it a show seemed like a possibility.
Then a year of plans began with help from Grant and a programmer from Arizona. During the second year, the show became Joel’s ‘baby’ and he has been the only person programming it ever since. Right now he is teaching another young person how to continue the operation.
Programming is a tedious process. Every two minutes of light show for the courthouse takes over eighteen hours to complete. Needless to say, Joel spends a lot of time at the computer designing the program. It takes time and patience to synchronize 55,000 lights to over 150 Christmas songs.
This year’s light show had a few major changes. For the first time all the lights were LED so the courthouse seems brighter than ever.What appears to be fireworks appears above the courthouse roof.
On the courthouse steps, four lighted trees form Craig’s Christmas Quartet. This is the first time an entire song has been sung and it’s acapella in four part harmony. This is a tribute to Craig, the caretaker at the courthouse, who has been so helpful to Joel and friends over the years.
As a way to get people directly involved with the light show, Joel has used an idea from Disney. A Magical Lightshow Wristband has been designed with a computer chip. When this wristband is at the courthouse, it becomes controlled by the light show and flashes along with it.
This is the first time anything has been sold to raise money for the light show. The cost of the wristband is $20, but you must remember “It’s not a toy. It’s a computer.”
When asked about his favorite Christmas music, Joel paused as he enjoys so many. Finally, he admitted that Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Carol of the Bells, Gene Autry’s Rudolph, and Andy Williams’ White Christmas were among his favorites.
One of his favorite pastimes will surprise you. He enjoys going to the courthouse light show anonymously to listen to comments about the show. “It’s fun watching other people watch the show.” There he finds ideas for the future as well as improvements that can be made.
Ten months out of the year, Joel works approximately thirty hours a week on the programming for the Guernsey County Courthouse Holiday Light Show. November and December, when it is running, are his months off from programming. But he’s always handy in case there’s a problem with the program. Most can be fixed from his computer, wherever he happens to be.
When Joel gets an idea, he usually jumps right in and makes it happen. One thing he has put on hold is a trip he wants to share with his wife to Maui. His dream places them at a resort, overlooking the ocean at sunset while having dinner. He even has a video of it on his phone. Someday you can be certain this too will happen. He makes his dreams reality.
Come to Cambridge and watch the Guernsey County Courthouse Holiday Light Show any evening from November 1 to January 2, 2017 starting at 5:30 until 9:00. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to spot Joel watching too.
The Guernsey County Holiday Light Show happens in Cambridge, Ohio at their courthouse square along old Route 40. You don’t want to miss it.