WARWICK, RI — The Picozzi Christmas display is celebrating its 10th anniversary entertaining thousands, another year raising money for The Tomorrow Fund non-profit providing financial and emotional support for for children with cancer at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, as well as a place in a young couple’s love story.
“At first it was just like a hobby,” said Frank Picozzi, architect of the annual light show, accompanied each year by music broadcast on FM radio at 97.1 for folks in their cars, at 75 Gristmill Road,Warwick RI.
Picozzi, a home improvement contractor and owner of Compass Home Improvement, had been decorating his house for about 20 years before he first set his display to music, building special props, and collecting donations to local charities each year from appreciative spectators. He was among the first in the area to approach the display as a serious entertainment attraction.
“I didn’t think anybody would see it,” Picozzi said. Now, he estimates tens of thousands of people visit his house each season to see the display.
Picozzi’s long experience with building has come in handy while setting up the displays each year. Each year he said he tries to add something new to the display. This year he’s got several new light displays on his roof, including a big snowflake on top of his garage. He builds the structures with wood, piping, and PVC pipe, secured to his roof with guy wires drilled into the building.“The whole thing made it through the wind storm the other month,” Picozzi said.
Picozzi has long since abandoned regular Christmas lights, he said. Now, he works in pixel-displays, where each light is governed by a microprocessor, allowing him to program the lights and more easily set them to music.
One young couple visited the display during their first date four years ago, Picozzi learned this year, after an inauspicious start. The man had lost his wallet, and she paid for dinner, but the rest of their plans for the night were curtailed. The couple decided to pay a visit to the Gristmill Road display for their evening entertainment. Picozzi said the man reached out to him this year, told him the story of the first date, and noted things had gone much better for the couple since visiting his house. So much better, in fact, that he planned to propose to her there this year, and asked his help. Picozzi agreed.
When they got there, Picozzi had a recording of the man’s voice set to play along with the couple’s favorite song. Channel 10 covered the proposal by Andrew Cotten Toolen to his girlfriend, Amanda Baldaro.
“She said ‘yes,’ thankfully, Picozzi said.
The year has also been special thanks to Picozzi’s grandson’s involvement in his trips to Providence with a portable pixel-illuminated Christmas tree to give children staying at Hasbro Children’s Hospital a light show they can see from the hospital’s windows. The children flash their room lights back at the light display operators, he said. He’s also enjoyed the support of a large number of his fellow Warwick residents, some with their own lights to show the children at Hasbro.
“What’s special is number one- my grandson Tyler is doing this project with me. I told him about it and he immediately jumped aboard to do something nice for the kids. And number two is that so many people have joined. The sick children have been very excited about it and I’m sure that it’s giving a lot of comfort,” Picozzi wrote on his Facebook page.
To donate directly to The Tomorrow Fund, visit their website. The Picozzi Christmas light display will run through Dec. 31.