Richmond Times-Dispatch

It’s time for Tacky Lights

Many homes on our list will light up soon.

- BY COLLEEN CURRAN

The coronaviru­s hasn’t stopped Tacky Lights season from starting this weekend, although it is dimming the lights a little.

Many houses on the Tacky Lights List, compiled by the Richmond TimesDispa­tch, will start lighting up Thanksgivi­ng weekend.

But there will be some big changes this year.

A Phifer Christmas on Asbury Court, one of the biggest and brightest attraction­s on the tour, has decided not to light up this year due to the coronaviru­s. A decision that has been met with anger from some visitors, according to home owner Bobby Phifer.

“If you have been here in the past you know that social distancing is not in any way possible,” Phifer posted to his Facebook page. Thousands of people typically visit 9604 and 9606 Asbury Court during the holiday season, clustering on the street to view the display. “We feel the best gift that we can give to Richmond is safety and not create a COVID-19 risk at what is probably the largest gathering spot in the area to admire Christmas lights.”

Phifer said he will be lighting up the three giant trees in each yard for the holiday and that he plans to return to the Tacky

Light Tour in 2021.

Al and Esther Thompson at 9716 WendhurstD­rive in Glen Allen, one of the most recognizab­le houses on the tour, will light up this year, but with several new safety measures in place due to the coronaviru­s.

“We talked about whether or not to light up all summer. Wecame to the conclusion that this year, these Christmas lights will mean more than ever. People need normalcy. There’s never been a year like

2020,” Al Thompson said.

But with coronaviru­s cases on the rise and Gov. Ralph Northam’s new restrictio­ns on gatherings, Thompson has decided to cancel his Grand Illuminati­on event on Thanksgivi­ng night, which typically draws hundreds of people.

Instead, 9716 Wendhurst Drive will light up on Friday, Nov. 27.

He’s also posted signs saying that no more than 25 people will be allowed to stand in front of the house to stave off crowding. If the crowd goes one person over the limit, he’ll shut off the lights.

“I’m very serious about this. I want people to be safe and I’m trying to do the best I can [to keep people safe],” he said.

Thompson is also sending letters to the limo companies and buses that host Tacky Light tours, notifying them of the crowd limitation and asking them not to unload their guests.

Visitors will also find markers in front of the house set 6 feet apart to encourage social distancing.

The Thompson’s home won $50,000 on ABC’s

“The Great Christmas Light

Fight” in 2016 and features over 170,000 lights.

Somehouses going dark & more changes to Tacky Lights this year:

Chuck and Sherry Hudgins at 6444 Little Sorrel Drive in Mechanicsv­ille will not be lighting up this year due to a severe illness in the family. Their home, known as “Christmas Fantasylan­d” with a line of reindeer on the roof, was featured on ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight” last year.

1925 W. Laburnum Ave., on Richmond’s Northside, known for its vibrant display of lights set to holiday music, has decided to retire from the Tacky Light Tour.

520 Plantation Drive in Glen Allen won’t be doing its full display due to medical issues, but some of the Christmas scenes like the nativity scene and Santa’s Workshop will be on view.

The Live Grinch at 1411 Pennsylvan­ia Ave., won’t be making any live appearance this year, but his house will be lit and fully decorated for the Tacky Light Tour.

“It was a really difficult decision to make,” said Brett Aliotti, who dresses up as the Grinch every year and poses for photos with fans. “But ultimately, I’m worried about crowding and there’s always crowding when the Grinch comes up.”

The house will be decorated with 40,000 lights, many Grinches, the Abominable Snowman, new homemade characters and manymulti-colored lights.

7703 Strath Road in Varina will be drive-by only this year, as well as 9625 Peppertree Drive in Richmond.

“More important than ever”:

For others on the Tacky Light Tour, lighting up this year was even more important because of the ongoing pandemic.

“People need a little holiday cheer,” Frank Hudak, also known as Mr. Christmas at 2300 Wistar Court, said. “It’s more important than ever to give people something to look forward to.”

Hudak plans to don his illuminate­d suit along with his neighbor at 2302 Wistar Court for a Grand Illuminati­on on Wednesday, the night before Thanksgivi­ng.

The Whitlocks at 8720 River Road are planning to have their drive-thru holiday display lit up and ready Thanksgivi­ng night where people will stay in their vehicles. Their home is a popular Tacky Lights destinatio­n throughout the holidays.

408 S. Laurel Street, known as the Oregon Hill Christmas House, is already lit with its kitschy creative display.

Hunter Bottoms, known for lighting up his parents’ popular Brandermil­l house at 14309 Long Hill Road, is lighting up his own house at 7519 Nicklaus Circle in Moseley with roughly 50,000 lights. His brother, Jonathan Bottoms, will also be joining the Tacky Light tour with his home at 15007 Hazelbury Circle in Midlothian.

Their parents’ house won USA Today’s Best Private Holiday Lights Display several years ago with over 150,000 lights. It was such a popular attraction on the Tacky Light Tour that there were traffic back-ups and neighborho­od complaints in Brandermil­l. The house stopped lighting up in

2018 after new community rules made it impossible to stage the light show.

More holiday light news:

A new holiday light show will light up the sky over Kings Dominion with Christmas drones on Dec. 10.

The “Walmart Holiday

Drone Light Show” will set off 1,000 Intel drones into the night sky to create three-dimensiona­l seasonal shapes and characters set to music. Viewers can watch the display from the safety of their own cars. Free tickets can be reserved at www. WalmartDro­neShow.com while supplies last.

The Illuminate Light Show at The Meadow Event Park, 13111 Dawn Boulevard, Doswell, is already up and running and ready for a drive-through light show.

Dominion Energy GardenFest of Lights started lighting up Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, 1800 Lakeside Ave., earlier this week, although tickets can only be purchased online and in advance due to the need for crowd control. Also, under the new guidelines, the Garden is limited to 250 visitors and visits will be limited to last no more than one hour.

The CarMax Tacky Light Run will be spread out over three days this year from Dec. 11 to Dec. 13 instead of one night for social distancing. The event has drawn over 4,500 runners in past years.

But for now, here’s who’s lighting up for the Tacky Light tour this weekend and where you can find them:

 ?? ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/ TIMES-DISPATCH ?? Al Thompson canceled his holidaylig­hts kickoff, but will light up his home at 9716 Wendhurst Drive in Henrico County on Friday.
ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/ TIMES-DISPATCH Al Thompson canceled his holidaylig­hts kickoff, but will light up his home at 9716 Wendhurst Drive in Henrico County on Friday.
 ?? ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/ TIMES-DISPATCH ?? All of the decoration­s at Al and Esther Thompson’s Glen Allen home at 9716Wendhu­rst Drive are handmade.
ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/ TIMES-DISPATCH All of the decoration­s at Al and Esther Thompson’s Glen Allen home at 9716Wendhu­rst Drive are handmade.

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