Christmas tree sets record with 518,838 lights

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian set his third Christmas-themed world record in as many years Friday by illuminating a tree in downtown Canberra with 518,838 twinkling lights.

Guinness World Records confirmed that David Richards had broken the record for the most lights on an artificial Christmas tree that had been held for five years by Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. That 36-meter (118-foot) Japanese tree had set a new benchmark of 374,280 lights this month.

Richards, a Canberra lawyer and businessman, brought together a team of volunteers including an electrical engineer, structural engineer, welders, carpenters, masons and steel fixers to erect the dazzling display on a 22-meter (72-foot) steel tree.

Richards creates such Christmas extravaganzas to raise money for Canberra’s Sudden Infant Death Syndrome charity, SIDS and Kids, by drawing large crowds and inviting them to donate.

“Some people say I’ve got quite a knack for getting people to do things for nothing,” Richards said.

“I get people to do things for nothing because they know that I do things for nothing and I’m contributing my own money, resources, time and effort as well — so maybe they feel sorry for me,” he added.

He set his first Guinness World Record in 2013 for the most lights on a residential property by covering his suburban home with 502,165 bulbs.

Traffic snarls in his neighborhood created by 75,000 sightseers who visited the display over four weeks made it difficult for his family to get to and from their home and irritated some neighbors. So Richards promised never to try to better that record.

He set his second record a year ago by stringing up 1,194,380 LED lights in a public space. The 120 kilometers (75 miles) of multicolored wire woven in the shape of three interconnected giant, wrapped Christmas gifts in a Canberra mall was the largest ever image made of LED lights.

But records tumble fast in the competitive world of light displays. Richards’ 2014 record was smashed in June at a hotel in Myoko, Japan, by an image of a dragon comprising 1,529,103 lights.

His 2013 record for lights at home was beaten within days by a family in LaGrangeville, New York, that decorated their home with 601,736 Christmas lights, reclaiming their 2012 record.

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