Annual Xenia lights show will start a little early this year, thanks to police chief

Xenia police chief, Randy Person, works on setting up the Xenia Lights, Monday night at Shawnee park. STAFF/MARSHALL GORBY
Xenia police chief, Randy Person, works on setting up the Xenia Lights, Monday night at Shawnee park. STAFF/MARSHALL GORBY

Every year, around Christmas time, Randy Person steps away from his role as Xenia Police Chief and into a role bringing the Christmas spirit to the city.

Person almost single-handedly lights up Shawnee Park with a Christmas light show.

He has done this for 10 years, first at his house and now at the park. Person has put hundreds of hours into building the props and creating a show for people of all ages. Every light is hand-punched into the displays.

Person said he loves seeing the joy his display brings to people.

“I’ve been the police chief in Xenia for 17 years and people probably know me more for my Christmas lights than being police chief,” he said.

The most popular part of the light display are two 30-foot-tall “mega trees,” that Person said create a grid. Person programs talking faces on the grid, like the Grinch and characters from the Disney movies Frozen or Trolls. The characters' face move with music being played.

Xenia police chief, Randy Person, works on setting up the Xenia Lights, Monday night, Nov. 9, at Shawnee park.
Xenia police chief, Randy Person, works on setting up the Xenia Lights, Monday night, Nov. 9, at Shawnee park.

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The idea for creating a synchronized show came 10 years ago when the Persons family took a trip to see the light show at Clifton Mill near Yellow Springs. Before then, the lights at the Persons' house had not been moving, but still intricately set up.

The show was a hit. So much so, that people would travel from across town to come see Person’s lights at his house.

“Six years ago it got to the point where people were waiting 45 minutes to see the display in my neighborhood,” Person said. “My neighbors never complained, but I didn’t want to be a poor neighbor."

Now, using the city of Xenia’s music license, the police chief puts on the show at the park. At the park, about 30 cars can see the lights at the same time.

“It’s been real successful there,” he said. “I have parents who say its now part of their Christmas tradition, since I’ve been doing it for 10 years. They get their kids dressed in their pajamas and go get in the car to see the lights."

Person, who just turned 66, said he thought last year would be the last Christmas light show.

"With COVID going on, my wife and I talked about it and decided it was not the year to stop it. We really felt like this was something families could do in a year where a lot of activities are really not going to be available to them, especially with the increase of coronavirus cases we’ve had in the past few weeks,” Person said.

Person said he normally starts the display around Thanksgiving, but is hoping to have a show up and running by Wednesday or Thursday. Xenia Rental lends Person a lift to help put together the display.

Xenia police chief, Randy Person, works on setting up the Xenia Lights, Monday night, Nov. 9, at Shawnee park.
Xenia police chief, Randy Person, works on setting up the Xenia Lights, Monday night, Nov. 9, at Shawnee park.

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Anyone within two blocks of the park can tune to 104.1 and hear the music that goes along with the display in their car.

“One of the feedbacks I get back from people constantly is that I maintain the Christian theme in the display and that I don’t forget the reason that we’re doing this,” he said.

He has built all of the props himself. Persons uses xLights to program all the songs for his show. It has taken about 10 years to amass all the lights and music needed for an hour-long show. Person has a software program that runs the lights for him.

“We’ve got it down to the point now where everything is pretty much a pre-made prop and we can throw it up in four or five days,” Person said. “Then it takes another week and a half to do all the connections and test the lights.”

Person said one of his adult sons helps him put together the show.

“This is a gift from my family to the community,” Person said.

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