Some people might have trouble getting into Christmas mood with outside temperatures of 25 degrees and no snow. In Cape Coral, however, this is no hindrance. While many home-owners decorate their houses in the festive season, few of them take it as far as Neil Monkman, creator of the “Planet Monkman” Christmas Village. Most Americans start decorating a few days before Christmas. Neil, however, needs a whole 5 to 6 weeks to prepare his extravagant show.
Amateur decorators might be satisfied to put a few lights on their roofs – but not Monkman. Every year, the native Floridian spends hours in front of the computer to plan his Christmas Village. Afterwards, he gets out the tools to turn his home into a dream world with colorfully lit reindeers and super-sized candy canes. Like many hobbyists, Neil started small. In 1999 he and his wife bought a string of holiday lights to decorate their trailer. Piece by piece, the collection grew, and in 2007 Neil first created the Planet Monkman on his new property in Cape Coral.
160.000 lights not only illuminate the house, but also the extensive yard. The tech-freak needs 30 control panels and a whopping 3–4.000 cable ties. With such a high-tech display, many visitors ask how he is able to pay the electric bill. Surprisingly, the costs are moderate, as each LED light is only active for a short amount of time.
One thing is certain: Assembling the Christmas decoration helps Neil stay fit. Walking from light to light, the 56-year-old often covers 6 miles on a single day. And Planet Monkman is not just a feast for the eyes, but also for the ears: In the evening, the colorful lights are flickering to the rhythm of Christmas songs and Rock tunes. This precise syncing of light and music is called “Sequencing” – painstaking work that can take up to 2 weeks. Neil says he got the idea when he was watching a beer commercial with Christmas lights dancing to the sound of music.
Of course, such perfectionism does not come without frustrations – and blown fuses. But these setbacks do not deter Neil. And he does not display the Planet Monkman for his own gains, either. The money he receives from visitors is donated to charity: In 2018, for example, the donations were used to equip K9 police units with much needed bulletproof vests.
If you want to see the Planet Monkman for yourself, you have to drive to 1938 NE 20th Street in northeastern Cape Coral. Note, however, that this attraction is very popular. On some days, up to 200 cars stop by at the Monkmans to see the Christmas Village – and to hear it, as the Planet Monkman has its own radio station. The show lasts from 6 to 10 pm. Afterwards, both the Monkmans and their neighbors take a well-deserved break from all the guests. If you want to know how the Planet Monkman is created, you should visit Neil Monkman´s Facebook page. There, Neil posts technical updates as well as pictures and videos of Cape Coral’s most sophisticated Christmas decoration.
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