By Brian Bokor
It is an understatement to say that Riverview local Mike Richards knows a few things about lights.
Richards’ fascination with lights and peoples’ reaction to them began nearly 30 years ago when, at age 13, he founded his still on-going DJ and lighting business (Michael Anthony Productions) and began his passion for decorating homes for Christmas.
At that young age, Richards noticed the joy that his light show brought to viewers and knew that he wanted to make this a permanent part of his life.
Throughout his corporate career, Richards saved his vacation days for the holiday season and used weeks off to decorate.
“Getting paid to put up Christmas lights…it didn’t get any better,” he said.
Over the years, Richards kept adding to his collection, and in 2017, he gained national notoriety on ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight when he and his neighbor teamed up to compete for the ‘Best Christmas Light’ display, attracting up to 1,000 cars nightly.
In mid-2018, Richards decided to sell off his display to concentrate on other projects, one of these being the new Riverview Marina (rivmarina.com) currently in the construction phase of development with an early 2021 opening date.
Shaun Drinkard, senior director of public programming and operations for the Tampa Downtown Partnership, contacted Richards, inquiring about the availability of his system soon after he sold it. Due to his extensive knowledge, Richards talked himself into a position as lighting consultant, designing the group’s 500,000-plus light display.
“I do it for the kids. There’s nothing like watching kids dance to the lights, the smile it brings to their faces, and the best part, it’s free,” he said. “How many times in life can you give something away that costs nothing yet brings so much joy?”
Preparation for the annual event starts every October with Richards sequencing the light show via a software program. Every blink of each of the half-million lights needs to be timed-out in quarter-second intervals to achieve the illusion of movement.
It takes about six weeks to complete this process and the display setup over the 7 acres will take a crew of dozens another two weeks working from 8 a.m. until 12 Midnight before opening night on Friday, November 20.
The most amazing part of this project is that Richards has to design the entire show in his head before sequencing the lights and building the custom displays; there is no blueprint to follow.
Richards is available for hire to anyone interested in designing a Christmas display light show and can be reached at http://michaelanthonyproductions.com or by calling 509-7230.