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The Range

Lighting companies keep holidays bright … and Wichitans off their roofs

Christmas Lights
Hugo Phan
/
KMUW
Tyler Inghram, a crew member with We Hang Christmas Lights Wichita, strings a line of lights over a customer’s roof. Two crew members below screwed in bulbs and passed the line of lights up to Inghram.

The reluctance to climb on a roof is good news for the growing number of businesses installing Christmas lights.

Christmas Lights
Hugo Phan
/
KMUW

Drive around Wichita long enough, and it’s clear there’s no shortage of companies interested in installing your Christmas lights.

Small signs from a host of companies have dotted most major intersections across the city in the last few months. We Hang Christmas Lights Wichita, which is co-owned by Zack McFeeters, is one of them.

In his line of work, McFeeters said there’s never a dull moment.

“I mean, from people crying and giving me hugs, to just the excitement they get,” he said. “And then, the excitement their kids get. “Just being a dad myself, I know how fun that is when your kids’ eyes light up, and you’re in the Christmas spirit.”

Founded in 1997, We Hang Christmas Lights is a national company with dozens of franchises around the United States and Canada.

For McFeeters, hanging lights is a family business. He and his dad are co-owners of the Wichita affiliate. And when it’s not the holiday season, he runs a lawn care service that his dad started 35 years ago.

McFeeters originally launched the lights gig to prevent layoffs and generate business during the winter months. But since starting, he’s found the demand for the service grows year after year.

Christmas Lights
Hugo Phan
/
KMUW
Crew members place lights on a line before they are placed on a customer’s roof. Left to right: Cory Lira, Jay Inghram, and Zack McFeeters.

And unlike many business owners, he saw that growth continue through the early days of the pandemic.

McFeeters had about 100 customers his first year hanging lights in 2018. Two years later, that number more than tripled to 320. By the end of this year, he and his six-man crew expect to cover 450 homes.

“We noticed more people, since they weren’t traveling and doing stuff, they had more money to spend at their house,” McFeeters said. “People are decorating their house more and doing things like that, so we definitely saw an uptick last year.”

The tradition of hanging holiday lights reportedly dates back to 1882, when one of Thomas Edison’s business partners used wired lights to decorate a rotating Christmas tree and display it in his window.

In the years since, hanging Christmas lights has become a massive affair in the U.S.

The Smithsonian estimates Americans purchase about 150 million light sets each year. In December, holiday lights account for about 6% percent of the nation’s electrical load.

To help keep energy costs low, McFeeters said he uses only LED lights, which also tend to shine brighter and last longer than other bulbs.

When customers call for an installation, they can choose lights in a variety of colors and patterns. Rates vary with the size and scope of each display, but an average house is about $400 – including leased materials, installation and uninstallation.

Christmas Lights
Hugo Phan
/
KMUW
Jay Inghram places colored lights on a line. Customers can customize the types of colors they’d like in their light display.

McFeeters said he usually asks customers to contact him in late October or early November to schedule a setup. Those who wait until Thanksgiving are often too late to get booked.

Shelby Downing is a first-time customer of McFeeters. She and her family have lived in Maize for about a year, moving in just before last Christmas.

“We were the only house not decorated, and my kid’s heart was broken because we’d just moved,” Downing said. “So I wanted to do it this year for him.”

Downing said she heard about McFeeters’ company from a coworker. To her, the appeal of the service is simple.

“Oh, my husband not being on the roof,” she said with a laugh. “No way.”

Downing and her husband both work full-time. She said it came as a relief that she didn’t have to decorate her home amid an already busy schedule.

“My kid’s really excited to come home off the school bus today and see the lights up,” she said. “And I haven’t had to do anything but write a check, and I was happy to do that.”