Mercer teams with Chick-fil-A for holiday light show competition

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One of Macon’s most popular annual Christmas light shows is at Chick-fil-A on Tom Hill Sr. Blvd. The dazzling display of colors, synchronized to music, has been a holiday tradition at the restaurant for the past 11 years. In addition to bringing cheer to patrons, this experience is part of the Light More Homes campaign that raises funds for Macon Area Habitat for Humanity.

“Light More Homes evolved from a front-yard display to a church-yard display to what you see now, which is a 65,000-light display,” said Ivey Hall, executive director of Macon Habitat.

This is the second year that local students have helped design the show. Chuck Hammock – whose vision led to the campaign and whose business Andrews, Hammock and Powell sponsors the show with Chick-fil-A branch owner David Clark – said updated technology increased color combination options substantially, which meant a lot more time and complexity to programming the show.

The annual Christmas light show at Chick-fil-A on Tom Hill Sr. Blvd. in Macon features programming designs by Bibb County high school and Mercer students.

The annual Christmas light show at Chick-fil-A on Tom Hill Sr. Blvd. in Macon features programming designs by Bibb County high school and Mercer students. (Top photo by Andrea Honaker; above photo courtesy of Macon Area Habitat for Humanity.)

So, Macon Habitat partnered with Mercer’s Computer Science Department to conduct a student contest in which entrants create light sequences timed to Christmas songs, Hall said.

The 2017 competition was open to any interested Mercer students, and Bibb County high school students also were eligible to compete this year. Mercer student Matthew Dirkson, who won the 2017 competition, provided training to teachers and students on the Light O’Rama software, said Dr. Bob Allen, professor and chair of computer science at Mercer.

“The partnership between Light More Homes, Mercer University and Bibb County Schools presents an opportunity for students to experience programming technology and then truly see their work in lights,” Hall said.

Participants had about six weeks to create their designs, and the deadline for entries was Nov. 15. Submissions were received from every high school in Bibb County as well as from Mercer.

During a ceremony outside the restaurant on Dec. 12, Howard High School was named the 2018 overall design winner for its light show set to “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. William Colin O’Neal, a computer science major graduating from Mercer this month, was named the University’s design winner. His design is set to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

“I hope (the public) likes it as much as I do. It took a lot of work because there are so many lights that you have to program,” O’Neal said. “I’m looking forward to being able to tell people that I made that song.”

All of the student submissions will continue to be played until early January, in addition to other selections that have been added to the rotation, Hall said.

Bibb County high school and Mercer students and teachers who entered the Chick-Fil-A light show programming competition are pictured with sponsors at a ceremony at the restaurant on Dec. 12. Mercer student William Colin O'Neal is pictured on front row, at left. (Photos by Andrea Honaker)

Bibb County high school and Mercer students and teachers who entered the Chick-Fil-A light show programming competition are pictured with sponsors at a ceremony at the restaurant on Dec. 12. Mercer student William Colin O’Neal is pictured on the front row, at left. (Photo by Andrea Honaker)

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Andrea Honaker