An Odyssey of lights and music
By Mike Nolan firstname.lastname@example.org December 16, 2012 3:00PM
Nick Miele programs the holiday lights and music display at Odyssey Fun World in Tinley Park on Dec. 5, 2012. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 18, 2013 6:03AM
It’s Christmastime, “Gangnam Style,” in Tinley Park.
While the monster hit doesn’t rank up there with the more traditional holiday faves, it’s on the play list at Odyssey Fun World, 19111 S. Oak Park Ave., where every night a massive light display is set to music. The display made its debut last year, and has gotten even larger this year, said Clint Paraday, Odyssey Fun World’s general manager.
Strung along the north side of the building, facing Oak Park Avenue, the lights are easily seen by traffic passing nearby on Harlem Avenue. Paraday said he’s unsure whether it will generate business for Odyssey, but could attract the curious.
Not including the bill from ComEd, the display cost $15,000, Paraday said.
“There’s the big mall (Brookside Marketplace) across the street and maybe people will drive by to see it (the display),” he said. “It’s not something we are looking for a big return on.”
Synching the lights and music is Nick Miele, who would annually deck his Batavia home with thousands of lights. When his imagination got too big and his house too small, he approached Paraday last year in search of a bigger canvas to work with. Miele helps manage a haunted house at Odyssey’s Naperville location, Paraday said.
The Tinley Park building is about 350 feet long and 40 feet high, and while nobody really took the time to count them all, Paraday estimates the number of lights is well north of 200,000. A crew of six, including Miele, began stringing lights in early November, and vertical strands of lights are spaced a foot apart.
The show starts at 5:30 p.m. each day and ends at 11:30. If you don’t want to get out of your car to hear the music, a short-range transmitter enables visitors to hear the tunes on their radio, at 87.9-FM.
‘Make people happy’
There are 17 songs in the display, including “Frosty the Snowman” and “Sleigh Ride,” and a few Top 40 tunes such as “What Makes You Beautiful,” by One Direction, Taylor Swift’s “We Will Never Get Back Together” and “Gangnam Style.”
Making the lights move to the music is no easy task, with Miele sitting at a computer for six to eight hours to program a single song. A computer program shows a grid with thousands of tiny squares, with each square representing a single light.
Miele has to designate when a particular light goes on or off, almost like a computer-controlled light switch, so even for a song lasting just a couple of minutes it’s an arduous job.
Still, he views it as a labor of love.
“I do it for the entertainment,” Miele said. “I do it to make people happy.”
Once he’s finished programming a song, a simulated image of the building’s exterior, displayed on his computer, allows Miele to see what that particular display looks like.
Along with more lights, other additions to the building this year include a handmade lighted “Grinch” face and poles wrapped with Christmas lights, Paraday said.
During October, the center opens Odyssey Fun Farm, which incorporates a corn maze, pumpkin patch and other fall-themed activities in a field directly north of the building. Next year, Paraday said, he wants to add more lights, wrapping the display around the building’s east side, and to make it cross-seasonal by incorporating lights and music tied to Halloween for visitors to the Fun Farm.
“This is nothing,” Paraday said of the light show. “Nick has lots of ideas.”