It's the holiday season, which means lights are everywhere: On your neighbor's house, decorating the local bar, and on buildings of downtown Phoenix. During the buildup to Christmas, Jackalope Ranch will be running the numbers on some of the best and brightest light displays around the Valley.
In any Valley neighborhood, there are at least one or two houses that pull out all the stops with decorations at Christmastime. On West Natal Circle in Mesa, however, all 14 of residences located within this cul-de-sac sparkle with scores of glowing bulbs, inflatables, and other electrically powered tableaux.
It's ben going on every year since the mid-'90s and nary a single resident plays the role of Grinch by refusing to participate during the holidays. Everyone gets in on the fun, even if it's only a few strands of lights. "It's not a requirement, but residents are asked to put up at least one string of lights," says Natal Circle resident Dorin Olson. "Most of the people when they move in here know what they're getting into."
And while some displays are larger than others, there aren't any major battles to see who can have the biggest and brightest on the block. "Its not exactly competition, more like we spur each other on," Olson says.
Strands and lights: It varies between houses. One owner says they use little as 10,000 lights, while another has as many as 50,000.
Inflatables: A total of 13 air-filled Christmas decorations dot the different houses, ranging from the humorous (Santa and his sleigh getting a traffic ticket from a state trooper) to the traditional (a couple snowglobes are used).
Other decorations: As we mentioned, each house offers a different take on the holidays. One front yard stars the characters of Spongebob SquarePants celebrating Christmas at Bikini Bottom, while another features Santa relaxing on a exotic beach complete with crabs, shells, and palm trees. The residence of Baptist minister Roger Ball has more of a religious bent, while his neighbor's adopts a patriotic "Support Our Troops" theme (complete with red, white, and blue lighting emanating from the cracks in the driveway).
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Why do you decorate: The reasons and inspirations behind decorating their houses are as different as each of Natal Circle's residents themselves. "I do it for my daughter, so she can have fond memories of Christmas when she grows up," says Olson. "And then everybody likes coming down here."
Meanwhile, Phil Smithers says he decorates because "it's impossible to imagine the holidays without Christmas lights," especially here in the Valley. "In a state like Arizona or a city like Phoenix, where its hard to get that Christmas or atmosphere, something like this really gives off that certain holiday feeling.
West Natal Circle is located near the intersection of Guadalupe and Extension roads in Mesa (click here for directions). The holiday lights will viewable 6-10 p.m. nightly until January 1. Admission is free.