Three Christmases ago, William Higginson wanted to show some friends the best and brightest that Boise had to offer — in Christmas lights, that is. But where to start, he wondered?
So Higginson, 26, started driving the streets of the Treasure Valley, looking for displays that would knock your socks off or potentially blow a fuse. He found them. A lot of them. And then he made a map so others could find them, too.
“I posted the link on (the Boise forum on Reddit) and it just took off,” Higginson said.
By mid-December, more than 500,000 unique viewers had visited the link. More than 160,000 of those came this year alone.
Higginson starts working on the map each year in mid-November. Beginning with a list of the previous year’s displays, he drives through the Treasure Valley to see which homes are once again aglow. Initially he spends about four hours each day double-checking displays and updating the map. As the holiday season ramps up, Higginson said, submissions start to pour in and his work tapers off.
It’s a second job for a few months.
“Even though I don’t make a dime, it’s just a cool thing to do for the community. It’s how I can give back for the season,” Higginson said.
There’s just something magical about the glow of holiday lights that’s worth sharing, Higginson added. Throughout the season, he’ll make the trip to his favorite sites several times — Caldwell’s Indian Creek is a favorite when he simply wants to bask in a beautifully lit space. At a home off of Quail Ridge Drive in North Boise you can walk up a driveway past dozens of moving displays, and you can even see the twinkle of Boise below. When Higginson is feeling especially festive, he checks out one of the dozen or so displays that syncs with music.
If you’re looking for specific type of light show, Higginson organizes the map by icon: Trees are homes with public light displays, picnic benches are community-run displays, and music notes indicate the shows that sync to songs. You can find details about which radio station to tune to or other information you should know on the map itself.
Though he has logged hours of work on the map, Higginson said he’s really an unknown to most of the homeowners. But it has brought him together with one Meridian family.
Shannon Luthy and her husband (also named Shannon Luthy) have about 60,000 bulbs adorning their house that dance along to music. Luthy said she and her family started their huge display about six years ago, but she’s noticed an increase in traffic thanks to Higginson’s map.
“The more people see it, it makes the work that goes into (decorating) worth it,” Luthy said. “For us, this is about giving back to our community. We want (people) to enjoy it with their families.”
She stumbled across Higginson’s map the first year he launched it and reached out to have her address added to his list. Now, she said, she speaks with him each year to see what’s new.
“Every year I’m like, ‘Tell me you’re doing the map again,’” Luthy said. “We have kind of this special connection. We have this Christmas bond.”
So did Higginson’s house make it on the map? Nope, he said. His townhome doesn’t quite lend itself to a dazzling light show.
“I have lights all over my cube at work,” Higginson said with a laugh. “That’s the most I can do right now.”
What actually makes the cut for the map? Higginson doesn’t exclude submissions, but he asks that people consider one simple principle before submitting an address.
“The most common question I get is, ‘Is my house worthy of being included?’ If you’d be willing to drive out of your way to see it, that’s what we’re looking for,” Higginson said.
He said that the map, which remains posted the same URL each year, will likely only grow as the Treasure Valley continues to see its own boom in population. And that’s something he’s happy to provide.
“I think it’s a very selfless thing to do, to put up as many lights as (the homeowners) do. They put them outside their homes to show their neighbors that they’re in the holiday spirit. So with the map, I’m just trying to pay that forward,” Higginson said.