500,000 Lights: Family's Christmas Display Sets World Record

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The Christmas decorating season is in full bloom in Australia, where a family's use of more than half a million lights has set a new world record. The Richards family's yard in Forrest, a suburb of Canberra, features a canopy of lights fanning out beneath a large tree whose trunk is wrapped in glowing colors.

Janean and David Richards' display uses 502,165 LED lights that, laid end to end, would stretch for more than 31 miles. The family is reclaiming a record it grabbed in 2011, with 331,038 lights.

According to Guinness World Records, their installation also includes "520 Lightorama channels controlling a 50-meter (164 feet), walk through, multi-colored canopy and an 18-meter (59 feet) light-controlled tree (all animated and synchronized to music)."

Even with help from their three children, volunteers and friends, it took weeks to install the lights, David Richards says.

"I started in October," he tells ITN, adding that he's taken only one weekend off since he began decorating.

Richards says it costs about $2,291 ($2,500 Australian) each month to power the display. A local renewable energy company is footing the bill.

Guinness World Records officials have certified the Richards' house for having the most lights on a residential property. But the couple say their real goal is to raise money for the charity SIDS and Kids ACT, which helped organize volunteers to install the decorations. The group works to reduce sudden and unexpected death in children.

"The charity is very close to our heart," David Richards tells The Canberra Times. "We lost a child, and SIDS looked after us many years ago."

The Richards' 2011 light show was also part of a charity drive, as they reportedly raised more than $70,000 in donations.

Last year, their Guinness record was eclipsed by the Gay family's house in Lagrangeville, N.Y., which was festooned with nearly 350,000 lights. If you're thinking the latest installation could spark a response, it seems the Gays are content to pass the baton back to their antipodean rivals.

"Congratulations to the Australian family we took the Guinness World Record from last year!" the Gays said on their Facebook page Monday. "Looks like they will reclaim the record as soon as Guinness verifies. I commend them on their fund raising as well. No, we won't be trying for it again next year :)."

The note adds that the Gays are now focusing on paying for their kids' college educations.

As for the Richards family, we might check on them again in January, to see if they go for a new world record: largest tangle of wires in an attic.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


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