From early on in his childhood, Jacob Jones has been fascinated with holiday lights displays.
Several years ago when he learned the owner of one of his favorite Christmas displays was selling old lights to convert to pixel lights, Jacob bought the old set using money he’d saved, so he could create his own light show at home.
“I always went to go see it as a kid … and all the time I would tell my parents, ‘I want to do that someday.’” Jacob made an offer, “and $400 later, I was pulling off a Christmas light show for the first time at the age of 14,” said Jacob, currently a senior at St. Dominic High School in O’Fallon.
Now in the fourth year, Jacob’s Hidden Lake Lights display outside of his home in St. Peters has grown to become a local favorite. In 2019, he added on a Halloween display. To top it off, Jacob has collected about $7,000 in donations for Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service, which helps people facing food insecurity and homelessness in St. Charles, Lincoln and Warren counties.
Jacob learned about the Care Service when he was a student at Sts. Joachim and Ann School, located next door. “We were constantly going over there,” he said, adding that the school held competitions to see how many boxes of cereal they could collect for the food pantry. “I saw all of the amazing things that they did to help people, so I’ve always wanted to find a way to (collect) donations that would make a big impact,” he said.
Planning displays takes place throughout the year, and he estimates his current display includes about 17,000 lights. All of the lights on the house, including the panels installed on the porch pillars, are LED. Other newer features include a large tree in the center of the yard and a nativity scene. He uses xLights, an open source program that uses controllers, to create lighting shows that are timed to music. Visitors can tune into a low-power FM transmitter on 90.1 FM.
Jacob has enlisted the help of several friends from St. Dominic High’s theater program to help set up the display. He and his friend Ethan Coutts of St. Patrick Parish in Wentzville also submitted the display and benefit for the Care Service as a senior service project. The two are involved with the school’s theater program; Jacob helps with programming the lights, and Ethan is a stage manager.
Jacob’s love for lights and involvement with the school’s theater program has led him to consider a future major in lighting design. As a freshman, “I didn’t even know the theater program existed,” he said. For his first production, Jacob signed up to shadow someone on lighting production. “The summer after my freshman year, I have been programming and designing every show,” he said. “I’ve always liked the things people can do with lights.”
On a recent evening, Jacob and several of his friends from St. Dominic worked together to set up the last of the lights. With a table set up in the front yard, he tested the display from his laptop as he struggled in his attempt to set up a couple of speakers to play music.
“Who would have thought setting up speakers would be the hardest part?” he said.
>> HIDDEN LAKE LIGHTS
WHAT: Holiday lights display benefitting Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service
WHERE: 28 Lost Valley Court in St. Peters
WHEN: Display opens at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, and runs through the holiday season; Hours are 5-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 5-9:30 p.m. Sunday.
MORE INFO: A donation box will be set up outside of Jacob Jones’ home. All proceeds will be donated to Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service, which assists families and individuals who are facing food insecurity and homelessness. For more information and updates, see Hidden Lake Lights on Facebook.