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Growing up with the Festival of Lights

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I grew up in East Peoria. The Festival of Lights began when I was a young boy. (around 8 years old I believe) We lived on Springfield Road and everyone on our road decorated their house with Christmas lights. I LOVED Christmas lights. My dad told me about the new festival and asked me to go with him to buy lights for the house. I could not have been more excited. We lit the bushes in front of the house and even put some chasing lights (they were cool at the time) on the house. I would sit outside for a long time just staring at the lights. The next year I insisted that we add more. We added lights up the drive on stakes and as you can imagine, my dad had to think to himself “I created a monster!” This was a great bonding experience for my Dad and I!

One day while my dad was at work, I wanted to REALLY impress him as well as everyone who drove by with an addition of lights that would surely get his attention! I decided to cover the entire roof with lights. Well…..my dad had just put on a brand new roof so I knew he would not mind if I got on top of the two story house and put lights up right? I was not sure how to secure the lights on the roof so I did what made the most sense to me. I took a can of nails and a hammer and proceeded to drive buckets of nails in to the brand new roof that was just put on to fasten the lights to. I got it all done and fired them all up…and they all worked! I was not finished though! I needed one final touch. I wanted to put a lit cross up and thought this beautiful tree in the front yard would work. I grabbed a 3 inch nail and pounded that thing directly to the tree. I was so proud and waited for Dad to get home. As he pulled in the drive, the  1979 Pontiac Bonneville came to a stop. I could see my dads eyes which were as big a saucers. I could not stand the excitement…I knew he must be happy. As my soft spoken, gently, and very loving father got out of the car, it almost appeared as if he was shaking. He would not speak. Finally he broke the silence by asking “Is that a nail in my tree?” then he looked at the roof and nervously asked “How did you get those lights on the roof?” I told him that I found a bucket of nails and pounded them in the roof. My mom who had been in the basement, was unaware of my nail usage and came outside. I thought my dad was going to cry as he said “Michael, I can’t believe you just put all of those nails in my brand new roof!” Mom tried to encourage my creative design while trying to keep my dad from passing out. My dad loves to tease me today about that and talk about how many nails I drove in to the roof, and how he had to have a roofing company come out and fix all of the holes.

From a young age, I was always messing with lights and sound systems. I loved to wire things, take them a part and put them back together. My parents were always so supportive and encouraging to me. They always told me that I could do anything if I set my mind and heart to it. My parents gave me a bible verse to claim through my life. I see it as my life verse. It is from Phillippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength.” I worked hard and started working mowing yards and doing odd jobs when I was 13. I started buying sound systems and doing work for Tremont High School for the school plays and the Turkey Festival Pageant when I was in high school. As I continued, I started my first full scale production company that would take me all around the country doing sound, lighting, and video production for professional musicians and corporations.

Now that I am a husband and a father, I work hard every day to be the man that my father was and still is to me. A kind, tender hearted guy who believes in always doing the right thing even when at times can cost so much. My dad never claimed to be perfect, but knew how to say I’m sorry, and was never afraid to tell his wife and kids that he loved them. My dad always took the high road even when he felt like he was wronged. My dad could have easily lit into me, yelled at me, called me names, or made me feel stupid. Instead, he encouraged me to keep going and never give up! I strive every day to live by that example.



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