Meet the Neighbors: Interlochen Christmas Lights a Family Tradition

Each December, homeowners transform the Interlochen neighborhood in northwest Arlington into one of the best-known Christmas lights displays in North Texas.

Approximately 200 homes participate in Interlochen Christmas Lights, which draws tens of thousands of visitors from Arlington and surrounding communities. Decorations on the two-mile route include Nativity scenes, elves, penguins and snowmen, Santa Claus and his reindeer, and other beloved Christmas characters. The dazzling display, which is free to drive through, was voted as the “Texas Best” Christmas Lights display by Texas Country Reporter and was also featured in Martha Stewart Living’s “10 of the Most Magical Places to See Christmas Lights.”

“The thing that is really, really great about it is how many people come through the neighborhood and how well known this event is,” said Interlochen resident Sandra Campbell. “When you want to get in the Christmas spirit, this is the place to come.”

The City of Arlington is proud to feature Interlochen in this month’s episode of Meet the Neighbors, a regularly scheduled web and video program that spotlights neighborhoods large and small across The American Dream City. Interlochen, developed by the late Bob Findlay, is nationally acclaimed by the Urban Land Institute for its sophisticated lake system. The private lake and five channels create nearly three miles of shoreline and opportunities for fishing, boating and swimming for families in the signature neighborhood.

Findlay, who created the Lake Interlochen Homeowners Association, is also credited with starting the annual lights tradition.

Some residents, including Ken and Rosemarie Seipel, have decorated their yards and homes with twinkling lights and festive decorations since the neighborhood event started 42 years ago. Though it can take days to set up the elaborate displays, the warm response from families who walk, bike and drive through the neighborhood makes all the effort worthwhile.

“The smiles on the children’s face, that’s what it’s all about,” Ken Seipel said.

Click here to see the 2017 Interlochen Christmas Lights route map.

Lake Arlington HOA President Ralph Sobel and his wife, Alice, spent about 10 days this year decorating inside and out. Their eye-catching Porto Bello Court home features a life-size Santa Claus, scores of inflatables, a Christmas merry-go-round and ferris wheel that move, and even a Festivus pole from Seinfeld fame.

“We’ve lived here 20 years and we have people coming through who say my parents took me to see your house and now I’m taking my kids to see your same house,” Sobel said.

Homeowners who participate in Interlochen Christmas Lights also have the chance to win one of 10 awards, which include Best Theme, Most Artistic and even the Griswald Award in the spirit of the Griswald’s over-the-top yard display in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

Tom and Dot Wightman, who have participated in Interlochen Christmas Lights for 31 years, won the Vernon Porter Award this year for best waterside lighting. The Wightmans and their 12-year-old grandson Jake began decorating with a snowflake theme before Thanksgiving this year.

“We enjoy the water and we especially enjoy the Christmas celebration. It’s been going on for a long time and there’s been years we’ve made the national news,” said Tom Wightman. “It’s a family tradition.”

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