Visitors to a Haltom City family's 2020 holiday lights display get an extra bonus they likely won't see anywhere else: a concert by Texas Tejano queen Selena. The larger-than-life "Wisdom Way Lights" show includes choreographed light projections featuring the late singer's hits and concert clips.
Wisdom Way Lights has been an annual tradition for Jesse Gonzalez's family since 2012. Each year, the shows get bigger, more high-tech, and more spectacular, but they're still a family-run labor of love for the holidays. Gonzalez puts them together based on his wife and kids' creative ideas. His wife gets credit for Selena.
"My wife, Angela, is huge fan of Selena and wanted me to do something in her memory," Gonzalez says. "So we figured with the COVID being so bad this year and many people stuck at home and out of work, now would be the best time do something big to bring the holiday cheer — and what better than a full-size display with a mix of some of her favorite hits and concert clips?"
During the six-minute tribute show, clips of Selena concerts are projected on an LED screen while music and snippets of interviews are played over speakers. Christmas trees on the lawn "dance" along in a choreographed light show while she sings and speaks. In all, the presentation uses 8,300 LED lights.
Gonzalez edited the show together himself, working six to seven hours a day for five days straight on his home computer.
"I finished it at 10 o'clock on Thursday, plugged it in for a test run Thursday night, and it was perfect. We were ready for the show to start that Friday," he says.
The show is particularly appropriate in 2020, the 25th anniversary of Selena Quintanilla's death. A just-released Netflix docuseries about her life and murder in South Texas is fueling a worldwide resurgence of interest in the singer.
"I normally steer my Christmas themes toward the younger generation; I've done Mario and Pokemon," Gonzalez says. "Like a lot of people in the community, my wife and I grew up listening to Selena, and my wife said, 'Why don't we do a show to attract adults?' We brainstormed and came up with Selena, who was trending because of the Netflix show."
Selena, however, is just one part of the Wisdom Way show. The entire 15-minute show also includes favorite characters from video games and cartoons.
"My 5-year-old son, Hector, loves the Nintendo game Super Smash Bros., and my 2-year-old daughter, Hilda, is huge fan of Peppa Pig. So I did a mix of Smash Bros. with a dash of Peppa Pig," Gonzalez says. "So if you are gaming enthusiast, then this one is right up your alley."
Gonzalez emphasizes that he doesn't own the rights to the music, which includes clips of songs by Queen, the movie The Greatest Showman, Pentatonix's rendition of "Hallelujah," and more. But he doesn't charge admission or ask for donations. The show is free for people to watch, either from the safety of their cars (tuned to channel 90.7 on the radio) or from the sidewalk.
He says some people pull up lawn chairs, and some even dance in the street.
"It’s a safe and free event for people to see," he says. "There's nothing better than sitting in the comfort of your own vehicle and enjoying some holiday lights."
Gonzalez, a Trimble Tech High School graduate who moved to Haltom City in 2011, says his Christmas displays started modestly but from a genuine love of the holidays.
"My first light display was in the winter of 2012 and it started very small, just a few strands of lights connected to a sound box, a 'Dr. Christmas' set I bought at Home Depot for $69," he says. "My obsession grew throughout the years and my show keeps getting bigger and bigger."
The 39-year-old has no background in lighting or event design — he's a logistics pro who owns a freight brokerage — but he and his wife spend weeks designing the show and installing each bulb by hand because they love to bring smiles to visitors' faces each season. When they flip the lights off for the last time January 3, they'll take it all down and put it in a storage unit behind their house, as they maxed out their attic five years ago.
Oh, and their electric bills? Only about $75 higher than usual during the holidays, thanks to the LED lights.
"With every passing car and smile I saw, it gave me fuel to continue to grow the show," Gonzalez says. "My goal one day is to have over 20,000 lights and hope to have a spot on [the TV show] The Great Christmas Light Fight Show."
Wisdom Way Lights runs nightly from 6-11 pm, and until midnight on Friday and Saturdays, though January 3.