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Keeping tradition alive: Man with Parkinson's lights up Plymouth with synchronized light show

"The best medicine I have for my disease is what I try to do with the light show," Mike Justak said.
A tree light up during the PD Shimmers synchronized light show.

A tree light up during the PD Shimmers synchronized light show.

For more than a decade, Mike Justak has been lighting up his Plymouth neighborhood with a synchronized light show set to holiday music. 

The annual light show, which features more than 60,000 lights synchronized to a variety of songs from Christmas and Hanukkah tunes to top hits, aims to raise awareness and funds for Parkinson’s disease. 

It’s a cause that's close to Justak’s heart. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease more than 15 years ago. The light show, called PD Shimmers, is named for the shimmer of a light bulb, which Justak says is the equivalent of a Parkinson’s tremor.

"The best medicine I have for my disease is what I try to do with the light show," Justak told Bring Me The News, calling it his lifeline, which keeps him moving and connects him with people. "You have to find a passion and you'll be surprised how it picks up your spirits and gives you something to look forward to."

PD Shimmers will mark its 11th season when it opens on Thursday at his home at 4320 Ithaca Lane N in Plymouth. The free light show will run from 5-9 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays through Christmas.

Here's a preview of this year's show: 


Justak, who spends all year programming the light show and months putting up all the lights, wasn't sure he'd do it this year. His Parkinson's is getting worse, so the show has a smaller footprint than years past (it's no less grand, though) and he questioned if people would even come to it because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But in a year when PD Shimmer's message is all the more poignant, Justak realized a drive-by light show is a holiday tradition that doesn't need to be canceled by COVID.

"This will give you something to do, and for a lot of people it's part of their ritual," Justak said. He's spoken to families who've come to his show every year since it began, which means a lot to him. "That's big for the light show guy."

Mike Justak at the computer he uses to program his annual light show, which is set up in the dining room of his family's home in Plymouth. Justak works all year on the show, programming the lights, putting them up in the fall and running the show ...

Mike Justak at the computer he uses to program his annual light show, which is set up in the dining room of his family's home in Plymouth. Justak works all year on the show, programming the lights, putting them up in the fall and running the show ...

Justak hopes people not only enjoy the show but that it raises awareness about the 1 million people who are fighting Parkinson's disease. 

"Parkinson's is a socially isolating disease to start with. One out of two patients with Parkinson's suffers from depression," Justak said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly difficult for those with Parkinson's because support groups are meeting via Zoom instead of in-person.

"Sitting in front of a camera, you get sleepy or just the opposite where the dyskinesia (involuntary muscle movements) kicks in and you can't sit still, and that's kind of annoying to watch," Justak said. "So when stuff like this happens, you don't go to support group or you don't try to meet with people – you just kind of wave the white flag."

PD Shimmers benefits the Mike Justak Foundation for Parkinson's Disease via donations. The foundation has raised more than $100,000 to help people in the area living with the disease. To find out more or to donate, visit Justak's website here

If you go

PD Shimmers 4

The 11th season of PD Shimmers opens Thursday, Nov. 26, at 4320 Ithaca Lane N in Plymouth and will run from 5-9 p.m. on Thursdays-Sundays throughout the month of December. Mondays and Tuesdays are by advanced request only, which people can do using the request form on PD Shimmers' website here

"I'm perfect for social distancing because you're in your car," Justak said. noting groups and companies looking for a safe way to celebrate the holidays can reserve a spot on Mondays or Tuesdays. 

Justak is encouraging everyone who comes to see the show to park on Ithaca Lane facing north (turn onto Ithaca from 42nd Avenue North or 43rd Avenue North via Juneau Lane North). He calls this an "enhanced viewing experience" that will give everyone the best view and help prevent vehicle headlines from shining in people's eyes during the show, noting the best spot to see the show is right in front of his mailbox.

When you arrive, tune your vehicle radio to 90.0 FM to hear the music and enjoy the show. Justak also hopes to live-stream each night of the show on PD Shimmers' website

Justak has programmed nearly 50 minutes of music, with a different sequence of songs playing each night so no night will be the same. As it gets closer to Christmas, the show will feature more Christmas songs. 

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