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A surfing Santa and more at Del Mar's Holiday of Lights


Last updated 12/2/2006 at Noon

At 400 glittering displays, the Holiday of Lights at San Diego County’s Del Mar Fairgrounds is the largest animated lighting display on the West Coast. It’s a good thing they allow for repeat tours because once just isn’t enough. I drove around three times and still missed some of it.

It takes crews about a month to set up the displays, which are laid out around the racetrack and grouped into seven different categories: Candy Cane Lane, Toyland, San Diego County Fair, Treasures by the Lake, Del Mar Racetrack, The Twelve Days of Christmas and Elves at Play. The only unifying theme is Christmas, but it all works together to create a wonderland of lights. Guests are ushered into this fairyland when they pass under a monumental canopy of green and red lights. A motion effect is created by the clever blinking of lights. A volleyball team of Santa’s elves and a Santa playing basketball make good use of this effect.

Fair midway rides and booths light up the night: a Ferris wheel, an intricate carousel, a jack-in-the-box teddy bear that jumps up with a “Happy Holidays” sign, and even a hot dog stand. The Del Mar Racetrack portion of the display is complete with “racing horses.” A line of horses light up in such a fashion as to simulate a race. Down at the lake a Santa fishes, ducks and swans swim and a sea serpent waves its tail. Gigantic icicles “drip” off the grandstand and a large American flag “waves.” The Iwo Jima flag-raising event was commemorated in a display complete with a blinking red, white and blue flag.

Holiday of Lights opens at 5:30 p.m. every night until January 1 and closes at 10 p.m. every day except Friday and Saturday, when the closing time is 11 p.m. For further information, including admission fees, please access the Web site

Another upcoming holiday event: Holiday at the Rancho

The annual “Holiday at the Rancho” at the City of Carlsbad’s Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park at 6200 Flying LC Lane is on Saturday, December 9, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. This free event is billed as a celebration with a “Dickens atmosphere.” Guests may purchase hot drinks and soup. A kid’s craft area will be available and a local artisan will have her handmade Christmas-related crafts on sale. “A Christmas Carol” will be playing on a large movie screen.

According to information on their Web site: “The facility is ADA-compliant but seniors may find the distances from the parking lot to major points of interest to be challenging.” For further information please call (760) 476-1042 or (760) 434-2826.

Leo Carrillo was born in 1880 and died of cancer in 1961. He was an actor who appeared on stage as well as in over 90 films/television shows, including his most famous role as Pancho in the 1950s television show “The Cisco Kid.”


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