December 9, 2013

Spotlight on Interlochen

The northwest Arlington neighborhood’s holiday lights display attracts visitors from across the area.

It’s lights, cameras, traffic action and more lights for the central Arlington neighborhood of Interlochen Estates, long known as the must-see holiday light destination for North Texas residents and their seasonal guests.

Though the expense, organizational duties and traffic issues have multiplied over the years for Interlochen homeowners, the tradition still lives on. Neighbors move away and new families move in, ready to take on the Christmas challenge themselves.

Tom and Dot Wightman have lived in Interlochen for 27 years and have decorated three sides of their corner-lot home every year for the enjoyment of the crowds.

“It changes,” Dot Wightman said of her home’s lighting display. “We do something similar every year and then maybe add something.”

This year, the Wightmans are adding red lights to their traditional white outline lighting, and they are hanging snowflake ornaments in the trees.

The free drive-through display starts Dec. 13 and runs through Christmas Day. Arlington police will be directing traffic those nights from 7 until 11 p.m.

This year’s route is the same as last year, with starting point at Westwood Drive off West Randol Mill Road.

In recent years, the holiday light display bathed in the glow of controversy when the Salvation Army set up a red kettle station and handed out hot chocolate for those waiting in line to see the lights.

But last year, the organization canceled the practice after the Interlochen Homeowners Association said it made traffic congestion even worse.

The almost 40-year holiday light tradition grew from an idea by Robert C. Findlay, a longtime resident of Interlochen and its original developer. He began merrily illuminating his own home in Interlochen in the mid-1970s and the idea caught on with his neighbors.

Before long, a steady stream of onlookers began driving through the neighborhood to view the dazzling displays fashioned by almost 200 separate households.

Now, about 40,000 people make it a point to see the display each holiday season.

Decorators can win neighborhood honors for their displays from the Interlochen homeowners association, including the coveted Griswold Award, named for Chevy Chase’s over-the-top Christmas Vacation character Clark Griswold.

“It’s sort of fun,” said resident Dot Wightman of the bumper-to-bumper brigade out front every night through Christmas. The preparation and planning brings neighbors together, too.

In a community of do-it-yourselfers, few homeowners hire workers to hang their lights.

“My husband wouldn’t go for that, no matter what,” Dot Wightman said. “He loves it and he always wants to do it himself.”

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