In the darkness of the winter solstice, one couple is bringing light to the woods of Nikiski.
Robin and Jim Allemann have put on a Christmas light show for the past seven years. The display of multicolored lights has grown to include a full-size Nativity scene, a group of Alaska animals, as well as skaters, carolers and a tall tree made of 32 individual strands of lights.
What makes the light show particularly remarkable is how the lights flash, flicker and flare to the beat of Christmas carols broadcast over a low-power radio transmitter.
The Allemanns are a team, both in life — they’ve been married for 20 years — and as the producers of their light show.
It started modestly, the couple said. They put up a few string lights on their property for Christmastime, but then decide to make homemade figures to line with strands of lights.
Jim said he started constructing the Nativity scene by cold rolling steel, and then wanted to add Alaska animals. He is still recovering from an injury, and said this is the first year he hasn’t added another figure to the show.
“We had some of (the grandkids) here this year to help us set up since I had fractured my foot,” Jim said. “So that kind of made things a lot more challenging.”
Jim said he considers the display a piece of art, and that he and Robin have tried to perfect the piece over the years.
“It’s probably like when a painter steps back from their painting and they can see, ‘Oh, I need to do this’ or ‘I need to do that,’ ” Jim said.
Robin said they divide and conquer: Jim handles the construction and she does the technical work.
“He’s built everything that you’ll see here, and then what I do is I take everything that he has and I create sequences,” Robin said.
The duo starts putting the decor out the first week of October before the ground freezes, but they sequence the music all year long.
Robin uses a free software program called VixenLights to meticulously choreograph the lights to each song in the set list. It takes up a lot of time, she said.
“It takes me like a month or so to build up to do one song because I start with a blank grid,” Robin said. “I build up on that and give everything movement so that it moves in time to the music.”
The light show runs for 62 minutes. If the average song is about three minutes long, that means around 20 Christmas carols are included. At a month each, that’s a combined total of more than a year and a half creating music sequences for the show.
Jim credited Robin with the production of it all, stating that her background in music helps the show come to life.
“I don’t have that. … If this was up to me and I had to sequence it, you wouldn’t like it,” he said.
The couple said they can barely listen to their own show anymore because of how many times they’ve heard each Christmas song.
And the show itself is no easy feat. The pair said they don’t have an estimate about how much the production costs, and it’s probably better that way.
“It’d be one thing if you had to put all that money out in one year, but we did it over a period of several years, so it wasn’t that bad,” Jim said. “I probably would have tipped over if I were knowing how much we were going to end up with here.”
Robin said community support has been steady over the years, and many families wanted to donate to the show to help offset the cost of the display. For a long time, she said they weren’t accepting donations. But this year, they set up a PayPal account under the handle @AllemaniaLightshow for anyone interested in helping with the cost.
The mornings at the Allemann house are more tranquil, when the flashing lights subside and the subtle glow of the figurines calmly illuminates the driveway and front lawn, instead of giving the neighbors a show.
“It’s just there for when people are driving to work and the kids are going to school,” Robin said. “It’s just some light out here because it’s pretty dark.”
She said looking out the front living room window gives the pair solace in the morning, before they start the show all over again.
“We like getting up in the morning and going sitting in that big room in there and just looking at the tree. We can see outside and we can see the figures,” Robin said. “It’s just a nice way to wake up.”
Jim said when he was young his parents used to drive to the “ritzy” part of town to look at Christmas lights. His favorite part about the show now is seeing how excited the kids get while watching it.
“When you see the kids’ faces — and I hand the candy canes out — I’m telling you what man, they’re all excited,” Jim said.
The light show runs at the Allemann house — 47495 Holt Lamplight Road in Nikiski — every night from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. through Dec. 30. Spectators are encouraged to tune into 99.5 FM radio while parked on the shoulder on the side of the road or across the street to enjoy the show.