While most of us spent the first few weeks of December dusting off our old lights, a few Tri-Valley residents were busy getting their homes ready for months.
Holiday displays are big business in the area, with countless twinkling spectacles on show in Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore every year. And now that Dec.1 has passed, the switches have officially been flicked, and thousands of visitors are expected to take in the various displays the region has to offer over the next few weeks.
One Livermore resident has dedicated his spare time to writing about where to find the best ones through his website, CaliforniaChristmasLights.com.
Alex Dourov founded the website 24 years ago to provide information on where to find notable holiday displays around the state. Homeowners submit their houses for review by Duorov and other judges, who verify the addresses, sort through the best applications and update the site every season.
“When my wife and I first moved to Livermore in 1982, we would use the newspaper to find houses to go see. Half the time we’d drive out somewhere and a house might only have one string of lights on it. So I got this idea to make a site that rounded up only the best ones,” Dourov said.
“At first it was only for the Tri-Valley but I started getting so many emails from all over and it just grew and grew. We’ve now had over 5 million site visits and have 286 listings verified for this year.”
Dourov’s own home, at 467 Knottingham Circle, is listed and has been lit up every night since Thanksgiving. His display usually takes 60 hours to create, so he starts working on it in October.
“We have 14 weatherproof outlets in our yard so it’s just grown every year. Before I switched to LED lights, my PG&E bill had reached $800 for electricity alone in December,” said Dourov, who now powers his home with solar energy.
“We have a transmitter so people can tune into the synchronized light show from their cars. You can call Santa from a telephone on the porch or listen to the weather at the North Pole. We have a button that sounds a train horn and releases smoke, and another that makes the teeter-totter go back and forth.” There’s also a snow machine and a projection of Santa Claus in a window at the home.
All of it was created, Dourov says, to bring joy to the people who visit.
“I love Christmas. I love the trees and the rituals. Most of all, I really used to love the look it brought to my children’s faces when they were young. They’re 31 and 26 years old now, but I still get to see those faces on other children, every single time people pull up to our house.”
Casa del Pomba
Douro has close competition, however. Deacon Dave Rezendes has been running a massive lights display at his home at 352 Hillcrest Ave. in Livermore every December for the past 39 years. Every year Casa del Pomba, as it’s known, gets bigger and better, attracting observers from all over the Bay Area.
“Last year, our count outside was 712,000 lights and this year we will beat that number,” Rezendes said. The tradition first started in 1983, when Rezendes decided that he wanted the entire community to benefit from his decorating talents.
“I used to decorate the inside of St. Michael’s Catholic Church, and I decided I want to do something above and beyond so that people of all faiths, or no faith, could enjoy a display,” he said.
Now, the lighting of the display is a community-wide event attended by the city’s mayor, the county supervisor, and the city’s police chief. Rezendes expects hundreds to show up at his doorstep to enjoy the spectacle this month, including a busload of senior citizens from Los Banos who were due to visit last week.
Casa del Pomba has even been home to some special memories. “We call the bridge by the waterfall Proposal Bridge because we’ve had over 70 wedding proposals there so far,” Rezendes said.
The crowds — and the expensive electricity bill — don’t bother him.
“It’s worth it. The theme changes every year and the fun is that people get to walk through it all. We have a six-car driveway, and we build little buildings on it. Then people can cross the front of the house and see some displays there,” he said.
“Last year our theme was Celebrating Our Heroes. We had a merry-go-round with elves on it dressed as police officers, teachers, nurses and delivery people. We also had a Ferris wheel with military service emblems on every seat, and then our swing was dedicated to veterans.”
When we spoke to Rezendes, this year’s theme was still top secret, but other Tri-Valley displays have been harder to keep under wraps. This is especially true for the Widmer family’s Widmer World in Pleasanton, where a 25-foot high tree has been erected as the center of this year’s display.
Widmer World, located at 3671 Chelsea Court, has been one of the Bay Area’s most prominent holiday displays for over two decades, and neighbors have been watching Bob Widmer and his family get this year’s decorations ready for the past three months. It’s their 22nd year opening up their acre of land, which attracts around 15,000 visitors every year.
“We just really enjoy meeting people. My wife and I, along with my daughters and my son-in-law, are out there all night greeting people and talking to new people. It’s just fun and it brings us a lot of enjoyment,” Widmer said.
“We have a scavenger hunt for the kids, and we had Santa Claus before the pandemic. We decorate every square inch of this place, and we change up the displays to refresh each year. We have people who come year after year so we always want to give them something to talk about.”
Something Widmer doesn’t want to discuss, however, is the price of his electricity bill. “It’s higher than I ever want to talk about,” he said with a laugh. “I’m a little nervous about what it’s going to be this year but we can’t stop now, so let’s see what happens.”
Candy Cane Lane
The residents of Walnut Drive in Pleasanton don’t feel like they have a choice when it comes to decorating either. Their street is known as Candy Cane Lane, and generates so much interest that the police block it off to outside traffic during the month of December.
“Every house is decorated to the nines. There’s a conga line of snowmen on the end of the block; next to that is the inflatable Looney Tunes,” said resident Joanie Fields, who decorates every year with her husband Jim.
“I did Minnie and Mickey Mouse one year and I’ve had Susie Q on the lawn for the past two years. Next door they have a merry-go-round and a teeter-totter. It makes for a really nice block.”
The street-wide decorating started in the 1950s, when Jim’s parents lived on Walnut Drive, and he and Joanie have been taking part every year since they moved into their home in 1972.
“It’s fun to watch the little kids come — they’re so in awe — and we’re a really tight community. Everybody helps each other and we have a gathering opening night,” Joanie said.
“People pretty much know when they move here what we do. They won’t buy here if they aren’t into the Christmas spirit.”
https://www.mercurynews.com/2022/12/17/let-there-be-light-thousands-flock-to-tri-valley-christmas-displays/ Thousands expected to flock to Tri-Valley Christmas displays