The display called “Our Dancing Lights” at a private residence in Auburn Hills collected more money for the nonprofit  The Rainbow Connection than ever before when the home was listed on the Oakland County holiday lights map last year.

The display called “Our Dancing Lights” at a private residence in Auburn Hills collected more money for the nonprofit The Rainbow Connection than ever before when the home was listed on the Oakland County holiday lights map last year.

Photo provided by Our Dancing Lights


Oakland County holiday displays mapped out online

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published December 18, 2018

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OAKLAND COUNTY — Holiday light displays can be works of art, don’t you think?

No matter how big or small, elegant or whimsical, bright and colorful, or subtle and chic, each family’s light show is an expression of spirit, and the wire and bulbs are their medium.

So with that analogy in mind, consider the Oakland County government website to be a gallery docent. The county’s information technology department has brought back its award-winning holiday lights map, allowing residents to list their light display on an interactive map so light lovers from all around town can visit.

No more aimlessly driving around with the kids and cocoa, looking for the best twinkle lights.

“The Oakland County holiday lights Map boosts the quality of life in the county by allowing families and friends to get out into the community and enjoy the beautiful displays,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said in a press release. “Most people only know about the displays in their local neighborhood. This is an opportunity to visit other communities.”

The listings on the map are crowd-sourced, so residents can enter their own property to be added to the map. Once it’s vetted — no spamming, Grinches — seasonal spirit seekers can plot their route through the county to see all of the beautiful displays.

And that’s not just a good thing for spectators and the proud designers behind the illuminations. Some deserving causes benefit from the additional visitors too, according to Oakland County Deputy Executive and Chief Information Officer Phil Bertolini.

“Last year there were (homes) that had donation boxes, and they donate that money to charity,” he said, noting examples like “Our Dancing Lights” in Auburn Hills, which raised more than $19,000 last year for The Rainbow Connection, and “My Light Show” in Waterford Township, which collected more than $12,000 for the Michigan Humane Society.

“That’s a 150 percent increase in charitable donations (at light shows) last year. That means there are people that directly benefit from these types of efforts,” Bertolini said.

The holiday lights map was so popular last year — with 18 participating homes and lots of site visitors — that it was awarded the Digital Experience prize by the Center for Digital Government. Already, more than 20 homes have been added to the map for the 2018 season.

This year, Larimer County, Colorado, launched its own light map, playfully crediting Oakland County for letting it “borrow” the innovative idea.

It’s no trouble for the county, Bertolini said, since the crowdsourcing map platform has already been developed and is utilized year-round for county business.

And for some not-so-serious efforts.

“There is a cost for (the geographic information system technology) but it’s not a heavy lift. It’s something we do on a regular basis. We do a great deal of mapping for county purposes, so we put up a site allowing the community to crowd-source, and now we have all kinds of maps in the open data portal. There’s a cider mill map, homegrown produce maps, an opioid recovery resource map, and a map of the month.”

To enter a light display or view all the entries on the map, visit OaklandCountyBlog.com/HolidayLightsMap.

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