Tucson’s Winterhaven Festival of Lights
Tucson’s Winterhaven Festival of Lights, one of the brightest “no pun intended” events of the holiday season, has been a Tucson tradition for 67 years. A small Tucson community in the middle of town has sponsored this must-see event in which the many hundreds of residents of Winterhaven, both religious and nonsectarian, spend months decorating their homes and properties with an array of colorful lights. Some of them are simple lights in trees or around doors but most of them are intricately designed to tell a story. Some are wildly animated with moving Santa Claus figures flying across roofs in a sleigh with reindeer and Rudolph in the lead. Others are more devotional showing the religious significance of Christmas. But even non-Christian families join the decorating bonanza with illuminated Stars of David or Menorahs. Hanukkah begins on December 24 this year so the two holidays intersect.
Tucson’s Winterhaven Festival of Lights begins this year on December 10 and ends the day after Christmas. It is a not to be missed holiday tradition which many Tucson residents, as well as tourists visit and re-visit year after year. Traffic is intense. Walk-through days, complete with horse-drawn hay wagons, are interspersed with drive-through days and, no surprise, parking can be difficult. The police work extra hours to keep things moving and everyone in good spirits.Those of us in the know, often wait until the day following the day after Christmas to drive through. Officially the festival will be over but the community, having spent countless hours & sometimes months, is reluctant to turn the lights off so you can still get a pretty good idea of how wonderful it is without a crowd.
However, this “is” a fund-raising event and although it’s free, a donation of money or food is turned over to the community food bank. So if you go, be a good sport and bring a can of something to donate, or a little cash, whichever you prefer. Last year festival attendees donated almost $24,000 and more than 42,000 pounds of food.That’s a lot of Christmas spirit. The most needed items are Cereal, canned soup, canned meat, canned tomato products, canned vegetables, canned fruit and cold cash.
This year could be the festival’s last. It costs a great deal of money to put this event on, even though the homeowners do all the decorating. Organizing, traffic control, police protection and insurance against accidents all have to be taken care of. The traditional sponsor for this event is bowing out of the deal this year so they are looking for a new source of funding. Donate here to Winterhaven Festival of Lights. Help to find a new sponsor.