LAFAYETTE – A family's Christmas light display, which got national attention before being exposed as a hoax, will go dark after this season, ending a decade-long run of raising money for a good cause.
Back in 2002, it was a novel concept. A light display that internet users could control online with the click of a mouse. Lights on and off. Inflatables up and down.
There was only one problem. Alek Komarnitsky had designed an elaborate hoax. It remained a secret even as people around the world went online to "control" the lights at his Lafayette home.
"The technology wasn't quite there," Komarnitsky said.
"So what I did was take a sequence of still images," Komarnitsky said. "People thought they were turning lights on and off but, actually, all they were doing was changing a picture."
The engineer living in Lafayette had fooled journalists, locally and nationally, including 9NEWS (which ran a correction when the slight-of-hand was revealed).
With the hoax exposed, Komarnitsky went to work designing a light display that would truly be controllable by users online. That 25-thousand light spectacular was unveiled in 2005.
The family used its website, komar.org, to raise money for celiac disease research. Both of Komarnitsky's sons had been diagnosed as children.
Over the past decade, an optional donation link on the light show website raised more than $80,000.
Only one problem. The celiac diagnosis wasn't quite right.
"Turns out the original diagnosis was wrong," Komarnitsky said. "It was almost bizarre."
The new information has changed life around the Komarnitsky household.
His sons are (quite happily) eating donuts.
And Dad is ready for a new challenge other than the light display.
This will be the final season.
"It's cool that the money's been raised for celiac disease," Komarnitsky said. "But the number one motivation has always been the kids who come by and smile… the outpouring of message from people all around the world."
"I just like bringing a little Christmas joy," Komarnitsky said.
That, we can report with certainty, is true.
Donations can be made here for the Center for Celiac Research.
(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)