Tim Dorr has always loved holiday lights, and now he’s able to share that passion with everyone while doing good for the community at the same time.
Dorr is in charge of the Prairie Village Mayor’s Holiday Light Display at 76t h Street and Mission Road, which people can watch from the parking lot of Shawnee Mission East High School. The display syncs an 18-minute animated light show with holiday tunes, repeating from 5:30 p.m. to midnight every night.
“We’re making memories for people. They enjoy it. It’s giving back and creating the joy of the season,” Dorr said. “It allows for a much bigger display than I could ever put in the front yard, and also allows for more people to see it than ever could drive up the street.”
He estimates that last year, the first time the display was in this location, 10,000 to 15,000 people saw it. This year’s display went up Nov. 22 and will stay there until Dec. 31.
The display does more than look pretty. Several years ago, when Dorr started putting animated light shows in his front yard, he began asking viewers to make a charitable donation.
Last year, the light show raised $3,602 for Heartland Habitat for Humanity under the auspices of the Prairie Village Municipal Foundation, where Dorr is a regular volunteer for building activities. Viewers can deposit donations in a secure box next to the display.
Dorr said the charity aspect of the display is fulfilling.
The show itself is no easy task. Dorr said it takes him four to six hours to program each minute of the colorful show with special equipment from Light-O-Rama. Each of the five 6-foot trees in the show contains 2,400 lights — and that doesn’t include the 21 miniature trees, arches, shooting stars, elves or other glittering images.
The hardest part is “envisioning in my mind how it’s going to turn out in real life when I do a sequence,” he said.
He provides the music via a low-power FM transmitter, accessible at 100.5 FM to car radios near the display.
In addition to up-tempo holiday standards, Door has included some dialogue from his three grandchildren, Taylor, Fisher and Brooke, who play the three elves in the show, and a message from Mayor Ron Shaffer. In last year’s show, the kids had a bigger role, and Dorr said he’s thinking of adding more dialogue from them to this year’s show.
“I’ve had people talk with me, and I’ve asked, ‘What do you like the best?’ Several kids really liked the elves,” Dorr said.
Although he’s the mastermind of it all, Dorr said his family, including his wife Mary, has helped him a lot.
“They’re behind the scenes in support, and also when we set up, they’re very present,” he said.
Before he began doing the light display at his home, Dorr had no experience with making anything like it. He retired from his job as an employee benefits consultant at an insurance brokerage firm six years ago and learned how to set up this display mostly by talking with people online.
Dorr moved the show to the high school parking lot when it attracted enough traffic to be a problem in his neighborhood. He consulted the city of Prairie Village, and after some discussions, the mayor approved the show’s current site.
“There’s no conflict with neighborhood homes, there’s no serious car capacity issues, and they’ve got a huge parking lot there,” Shaffer said. “Everyone I’ve talked to loves it. They thank us for allowing Mr. Dorr to move his display to a more public venue.”
So far, this year’s show is also turning out to be popular. Dorr has set up a time-lapse camera a few nights to see how many people are turning out for it.
“It’s busy all the time. It’s nothing to see 20 to 30 cars at one particular time,” Dorr said. “It adds up pretty fast.”