Check out the Winterhaven Christmas lights

Check out the Winterhaven Christmas lights

The Winterhaven Christmas lights are a must for anyone who loves to celebrate at this time of the year. You can tour the town and take in the lights on a bus trolley, group bike or a hayride wagon, or if you prefer you can explore the area on foot. If you want to take one of the rides then make sure you book, as seats go very quickly.

The Winterhaven Christmas Festival of Lights has been taking place for 64 years and is organized by the residents as their gift to the local community. While the festival is on you can get into the neighborhood through Prince and Ft Lowell. There are no charges for parking and you will not be expected to pay an entrance fee to see the lights.

How did the festival start? Back in 1949 a residential development started in an area north of Tucson and the lights began the same year. The man who started the development, Mr. Richards, had seen something similar when he was in Beverly Hills and wanted to recreate the effect; therefore, he bought the first lights and donated them to the community. Mr. Richards was also responsible for the planting of the Aleppo pines throughout the area and the electrical connections that are used to power the lights, and his work means that there is a real community feel in the area.

All the neighbors began taking part and for a while Mr. Richards judged all the displays. A prize of $100 was given to the winner and even after Mr. Richards moved away from the area, he still returned to visit the lights. Only one year has ever been missed and that was during the 1970s when there was an energy crisis. This is one of the longest running Christmas lights festivals in the country and hundreds of thousands of people visit each year, and not just from the local area. The scale of the festival means that its fame has become more widespread.

Local good causes benefit from the lights. Last year the Community Food Bank in Tucson received more than 43,000 pounds of food and more than $18,000 in donations as a result of the festival, and it is expected to benefit again in 2014. Community events such as these are a great way to raise awareness of local causes and Winterhaven has made sure that these causes have benefited over the years.

This year, however, the subsidy from the city has not been possible. This used to pay for safety measures and traffic control, but budget cuts have bitten and this money is no longer available. The community has made the decision not to cancel the festival due to lack of funds but to request that everybody pulls together to cover the cost with donations.

The Winterhaven Festival of Lights is on throughout December. If you are in the area and want to stop by, make sure that you plan in advance and get there in good time.