SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Josh Hayes is a 28-year-old Sioux Falls man working in healthcare. He’s perhaps better known to the community, however, as the Christmas light map guy.
Hayes and I were seated in a Sioux Falls coffee shop early Monday afternoon, and he began telling me about his Christmas Light Map, now in its third year, and how it came about.
“In 2020 my wife and I wanted to go around and look at Christmas lights, but we couldn’t really find a map,” Hayes said. “We saw lights and addresses, but they weren’t in any kind of order — a couple weeks after my daughter was born I was like, ‘you know, I’m gonna solve this problem for my family.'”
Hayes said that after completing his map back in 2020, he decided to share it on his Facebook page “just for my immediate friends and family,” he said. “From there the post just took off.”
His post with the map went on to get thousands of shares, going “Sioux Falls viral” as Hayes says some have called it.
Since that first year, the project has definitely grown. “When we first began, that first map — was all just addresses that I found on the internet,” said Hayes. “Since then, we’ve really used crowdsourcing for the community to be able to submit new addresses and new areas of town that they think are worthy of visiting.”
Hayes isn’t just relying on what others tell him though.
“We’ve been able to visit the sites — visit the neighborhoods multiple times before we release the map to make sure the route is the most economical that we can make it while still seeing as many sights in Sioux Falls as you can,” Hayes said.
This year’s map includes 21 areas of town, and Hayes says you can complete it in about 2-3 hours.
The idea of making the trip efficient is a large part of Hayes’ project. He says that between last year and this year, there have been over 50 new submissions for the map, however, in the interest of keeping the route economical and efficient, not everyone has made the list.
“There’s others where the homeowners go to great efforts for it, but it just might not make the list, just due to proximity,” said Hayes. “I try to think of if I’m traveling from out of town or packing our family up in our vehicle, would I want to drive our family to this location, and I think that’s really what makes the determination.”
One thing to note here is that Hayes does not profit off this map making enterprise. He’s made no attempt to monetize it, and instead appears to simply enjoy the process of creating it. If you do want to send money toward something related to the endeavor though, Hayes has you covered.
“This year we’re encouraging people to donate to Health Connect South Dakota and Sioux Falls Thrive,” Hayes said. “They both work very actively within our communities for families and children — while I don’t have any benefit from this map, more than just going on it myself — I see firsthand these non-profits working in our community to make a difference in our community.”
Overall, Hayes says he and his friends spend around 30-40 hours working on the map, mainly after work or on weekends.
The big thing that separates Hayes’ map from others of this sort is the GPS function that allows you to follow one continuous route. That GPS component also allows you the freedom to explore a bit on your own as well.
“As you’re taking this route, the neighborhoods have listed addresses, but that doesn’t mean that’s specifically where all the lights are,” Hayes explained. “If you see something while you’re on a route, make sure to divert and check it out. The nice thing about the map and the GPS is that it will always get you back on the route.”