Ten years ago, James and Shannan Hohensee saw a TV commercial for computer-controlled Christmas light displays. They were fascinated.
Fast forward a decade and that fascination has turned into an annual tradition at their home in Central that has drawn national attention.
Along the way, it also became their livelihood.
The evening light shows at their home across Sullivan Road from Central Middle School actually aren't the busiest time for the Hohensees. By the time they got the lights up on their house this year, they'd already created a display for the city of Zachary and, for the first time, a Christmas lighting wonderland at Blue Bayou Water Park. The milelong drive through the park takes riders past dozens of dazzling displays incorporating millions of lights. It costs $28 per car, with a maximum of eight occupants.
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Started as a hobby, the Hohensees' Boscoyo Studio is now a full-time business that helps others create their own holiday magic, and not just for Christmas. They also sell displays for Halloween and other holidays.
This year’s version of the Hohensees’ lighting extravaganza at their home has many of the same features that have drawn crowds for the past several years — displays that light up in time with music that plays on loudspeakers. Their lighting was part of last year’s “Great Christmas Light Fight” televised by ABC.
The decorations are more sophisticated than the ones they started with seven years ago, which they created with incandescent lights James Hohensee bought in post-Christmas clearance sales. The electronic controllers on the market were too expensive for his taste, so he made his own from do-it-yourself kits.
The Hohensees switched to LED lights, and last year made the transition to pixel lights, in which each bulb can be programmed to change colors. That allows people to create an infinite variety of designs, but the Hohensees initially struggled to space the bulbs uniformly enough to achieve the desired effect. So, James Hohensee designed a plastic strip with holes that served to keep the bulbs precisely in place.
“I love designing and problem-solving,” he said. “I created this strip. People loved it, and it went viral. It really put us on the map.”
The Hohensees began making and selling the strips, creating a side business that kept growing. When AECOM bought James Hohensee’s employer, URS, in 2014 and planned to move local employees to Houston, he decided the time was right to quit his day job and take his business full time.
Boscoyo Studio doesn’t make lights. It makes the display grids — stars, snowflakes, angels, arches, trees, mounting strips, candy canes and the like — that hold the lights. Their customers, who come from throughout the United States and more than two dozen other countries, buy them online. A snowflake goes for about $10, while Santa on a motorcycle goes for $80.
“It was really a blessing in disguise,” James Hohensee said. “This business, I was already working 50 to 100 hours a week, and I’ve got my day job. It was nonstop. At what point do we take the chance and do this full time? It helped us make that decision.”
Lights at their home and Blue Bayou will be shining through Jan. 7.