Themes such as “Redneck Santa,” “Department Store Window” and “101 Dalmatians” are all favorites at the annual Christmas lights in the Lake Interlochen neighborhood display in Arlington.
Eager visitors form a long line of traffic, sometimes waiting for hours, for a chance to tour the area by car.
The event runs from 7 to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Christmas night beginning at the intersection of West Randol Mill Road and Westwood Drive.
About 200 households in the neighborhood go all-out to decorate their yards.
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The event began about 38 years ago. Bob Findlay, who developed the neighborhood in the 1970s, decided to have a Christmas decorating contest to bring attention to the new area in what used to be swampland.
“There is relatively little planning and almost no rules,” said Robert Pendleton, secretary of the Lake Interlochen Homeowners Association. “There is no requirement to decorate and no common theme. Everyone does their own thing, and somehow, it all just comes together. The display of Christmas lights is truly a gift to the community.”
Pat Jenkins, a 26-year resident there, decorates every year, each time adding a little more.
“I have a larger-than-life Santa Claus on my front porch,” she said. “I made him myself. People come up to the porch to get pictures of their kids sitting in Santa Claus’ lap.”
Brian Murphy, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2005, knew what he was doing when he bought a house there.
“I grew up in Arlington and knew all about the Interlochen lights,” he said. “We go to Decorators Warehouse after Christmas each year and add a little more.”
To keep the flow of cars moving, off-duty Arlington police paid for by private donations direct traffic. Residents and emergency workers’ vehicles have a separate lane to avoid gridlock.
“For most of us in the neighborhood, it is so rewarding to be a part of such a unique tradition,” Pendleton said. “Men who should know better climb up on icy roofs to make sure their lights are just perfect.”