Arts & Culture
4:06 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Christmas, Auto Racing, Lights, and a Baby

When you think of Christmas, auto racing might not come to mind.

But the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon has turned a mile long race course into a Christmas display featuring more than a million LED lights.

NHPR’s Brady Carlson took his family to see the show and has this report.

I’m not really a light kind of guy – in fact, the first thing I do when I host All Things Considered is turn down the studio lights.

Winter solstice is fine with me.

But then I’m not really the target demographic for the Gift of Lights show.

(laughing, dadadadada)

My son Owen is eight months old and he loves lights – just switching on a lamp is enough to catch his attention.

And when we turn on the lights on the Christmas tree at home, his eyes get wide and his jaw drops.

It’s like watching a Pink Floyd fan zoning out at one of those laser rock shows that planetariums put on sometimes.

(Pink Floyd sound)

So when we heard about the gift of lights, we thought: perfect! We’ll drive to the speedway, he’ll be dazzled.

It will be the hit of the holidays.

(holiday music)

The first display is the biggest – a long lighted mural with the gifts from the Twelve Days of Christmas.

My wife is impressed.

 “Oh, it’s four calling birds – two turtle doves, three French hens, four calling birds, five golden rings.”

And then it gets esoteric.

“Is it just me, or is that Santa on a tank?”

“That’s Santa on a tank.”

Santa shows up in a wide variety of vehicles along the auto course– he rides a motorcycle, a truck, a pair of skis, a sleigh… pretty much everything besides a cargo barge.

Hanukkah gets a luminous shout out via an LED Star of David. My favorite display is a rainbow canopy of light strings…

“It’s a little bit like going through hyperspace like in Star Wars… ”

“It’s like a car wash with lights.” 

“A tinsel rave hyperspace car wash.”

My wife and I have been pretty impressed so far. Owen, on the other hand, has spent most of the ride trying to chew on my microphone.

But then he looks out the window right as a series of bows and snowflakes flash by.

It’s the moment we were aiming for when we came here.

Owen is absolutely marveling at the lights, he’s smiling and laughing and I’m feeling like a genius for bringing him here.

But it’s over as quickly as it started – he’s a little hungry and very tired, and by the time we get to the LED race cars and their pit crew snowmen, he’s sound asleep.

We drive past the free photos with Santa and head home, and it occurs to me that Owen was probably a little too young to fully enjoy this show – but there was that one moment where it really clicked for him.

It’s a metaphor, of course – parents try everything under the sun to help their kids grow, learn and be happy.

Many times those efforts don’t quite connect – but every so often they do.

Happy Holidays.

You can cruise the one mile Gift of Lights at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with your family until January 1st.