ABC’s ‘Great Christmas Light Fight’ visits an Orlando couple’s home

By : Kirk Hartlage
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ABOVE: Longwood’s Jim Cheslin and Alex Laneaux’s holiday decorations include 100,000 lights, a 16-foot Christmas tree of bulbs and a light show set to RuPaul’s “You’re the Star (On My Christmas Tree).” Photo courtesy of the heslin-Laneaux family.

LONGWOOD, Fla. | For more than a decade, long-time partners Jim Cheslin and Alex Laneaux have used the Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights from Disney Hollywood Studios as inspiration for their own yard-and-lawn holiday display at their Longwood home.

The Cheslin-Laneaux’s impressive display of 100,000 lights caught the attention of the folks behind ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight, which featured the couple’s home earlier this month on its fifth-season finale.

True to its name, the show pits families from across the country in a battle for the best holiday-themed yard and lawn display; each episode’s winner receives a trophy and a $50,000 prize.

Cheslin and Laneaux took a fateful trip to see the various Christmastime displays throughout the WDW Resort in 2005, and Cheslin told his partner during the drive home that he wanted to recreate the light show at their home.

“I thought he had lost his mind,” Laneaux says. Nonetheless the DIY project created a new spark for the couple’s relationship.

Fast-forward to December 2015, when, having seen the couple’s displays posted on YouTube, Light Fight producers contacted Cheslin and Laneaux about appearing on the show. Though not chosen for the series’ fourth season, the show runners encouraged the couple to apply again.

Before the next holiday season came around, the Pulse shooting occurred.

“It hit us, really hard,” Laneaux says. “I said to Jim that we needed to do something in honor of those victims.”

Within the week Laneaux had decided to build 49 stars which would be placed on the outermost edges of their roof.

“The feedback from neighbors has been amazing,” Cheslin says. “People love the tribute and are really touched and impressed by it.”

The show’s producers were no doubt impressed as well as they selected the couple to appear on the show this year.

Most years Cheslin starts assembly outdoors around Labor Day in order to have the display up and running byThanksgiving. This year came with a unique set of challenges. Producers needed the display completed by early October, ready for four days worth of filming. Hurricanes Irma and Maria also impacted the display, resulting in a last-minute 18-day stretch of frenzied construction to meet the show’s deadlines.

The display featured approximately 100,000 LEDs covering the couple’s home and yard, including a 16-foot Christmas tree of bulbs, all synced up to a medley of classic and modern songs. Though it took three weeks to get it just right, Cheslin is particularly proud of one new addition, a full-on light extravaganza set to RuPaul’s “You’re the Star (On My Christmas Tree).”

Sadly, the couple did not win their episode of the Light Fight. Still, Cheslin had high praise for the show and his fellow competitors.

“I think the show is really well done. I pretty much agreed with each of the winners, on who the judges chose.” Cheslin singled out one family’s unique all-blue mono-chromatic display, a favorite among fans and judges alike.

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