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Rockwall couple takes holiday decorating to the extreme

Bigger and brighter

Donna Orr and Roger Shank outside their home on Rolling Meadows Drive.

Many of us are only beginning to think about getting our holiday decorations out of storage, but for Roger Shank and Donna Orr of Rockwall, holiday planning is a year-round process.

“We never ever quit. We start in January for the following year,” said Donna. Each holiday season, she and her husband’s five acre home site is transformed into a new, extreme Christmas experience that the entire community can enjoy.

Talking reindeer Maurice and Matilda welcome guests who stop by to view the Christmas display.

Located at 2625 Rolling Meadows Drive (just north of Airport Road off FM 3549), this year’s outdoor exhibit will feature more than 50,000 LED lights, a 16-ft. tall mega tree, 16 cosmic color ribbons, eight medium-sized trees, ten mini-trees, six animated leaping arches, five towers, and 18 reindeer – two of whom talk.

“Matilda and Maurice welcome everyone to our Rolling Meadows Christmas,” said Donna. “Everyone loves the talking reindeer.”

Donna operates Command Central for the couple’s mesmerizing display, which is programmed to 2,650 channels of music.

Stringing lights and assembling outdoor decorations can take many man hours, but programming the display is the most time-intensive part.

“Programming it is time-intensive, but worth every minute. I build it all on the computer, and then transfer it to an MP3 player to see if all the connections work and all the songs go right,” she said.

Donna is as meticulous with the design as she is with tracking the amount of electricity used. She monitors everything on a spreadsheet. “We only use about $50 worth of additional electricity during the holiday season,” she said. “The efficiency of LED lights is amazing.”

Donna and Roger discovered the joy of extreme decorating seven years ago, following a trip to Home Depot where they saw lights that could turn on and off with music. They hooked up with a group of extreme Christmas decorating enthusiasts, and have grown their display every year since.

“Lone Star Holidays is our group. We’ve been meeting once a year inConroe,TXwhere people give clinics and present new ways to do things,” said Donna. “We have a lot of do-it-yourselfers in our group. We have programmers from all different companies. One guy designed software that is free to all of us in the group; he’s used complex algorithms to generate the special effects.”

Roger is a marketing rep for Brilliance LED lights. Donna is a certified animal cruelty investigator who fosters Great Pyrenees. She said her 160-pound pets serve as guard dogs, helping to protect their gated yard and the equipment they’ve acquired over the past several years. There are also eight horses and two donkeys on the property; Donna has been involved in horse rescue since 2000 and works with Throwaway Ponies.

Beginning Saturday, Nov. 29 through New Year’s Day, thousands of visitors are expected to stop by to witness the spectacle of lights and sound. The “show” will run from 6:30 to 11 p.m. every night, automatically repeating about every 20 minutes.

“People can pull up and park on the side of the road, tune their radios to 102.7, and enjoy the show. They don’t even have to get out of their cars,” Donna said.

By Dawn Redig, Blue Ribbon News. Photos by Richard Redig. 

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