Friedman’s Flake Lighting has become a new tradition in his Brookside neighborhood.
Creating a New Tradition
By Jill Draper
When Simon Friedman decided to enter his neighborhood holiday lighting contest in Brookside, he almost took on more than he could handle. But after weeks of sawing, hammering, painting and wiring a 14-foot wooden snowflake in his basement, he had an epiphany: Sometimes it’s easier to keep going than to back out of a project. Plus, after years of working in molecular-level research, there’s something fun about scale.
Erecting his jumbo award-winning yard ornament has now become a social tradition that will mark its 10th anniversary this winter. “Dear Friends & Neighbors,” his annual invitation reads. “You’re invited to an old-fashioned flake lighting.”
Friedman only half-jokes when he says the project helped his “early onset seasonal affective disorder,” and he notes the event has expanded to include a blessing, a poem, flake carols and even trombone and guitar music from participants—a playful celebration to offset the dark and dreary winter days ahead.
The snowflake and five smaller ones are outlined with LED lights outside his two-story home every December. Meanwhile, he works on ways to use LED lights to control insulin release for people with type 1 diabetes in his research center at UMKC, where he’s a professor of pharmaceutical sciences.
The flake lighting provides a venue for creativity, but also fosters community. “I have an overdeveloped sense of whimsy, maybe,” says Friedman, who describes himself as a scientist-educator and artist. “But everything evolves, including the modern cell. Why shouldn’t traditions?”