Amazingly, there are lights in 2020. They sparkle from treetops. They glow and twinkle in yards, and at socially distanced drive-thru events accompanied by music. Huge inflatable characters make us smile.
Sometimes, Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves show up, in masks and behind protective barriers, even though they are super busy right now.
In this year like no other, the dazzling displays are more important than ever in lifting our spirits and helping us find joy for the holidays.
Victor Pedroso started setting up his lights early this year. And even though November rains slowed him down a bit, his sixth year of holiday lights is even more impressive than last year.
“I get satisfaction every year from seeing the children smile, adults smile, families laugh and hopefully it brings some extra joy, cheer and maybe even a sense of normalcy during these difficult times,” Pedroso said. “They will be there for a while just taking it in and enjoying the lights.”
A new inflatable lion with a crown is just one of the newest characters featured at Victor Pedroso’s incredible holiday light display.
“I am especially joyful when I see this grandfather and his grandson, I assume, that have been coming for several years and multiple days a year. The grandfather will just walk around with the boy and laugh and smile. I hope they know how much I appreciate them taking the time to come and enjoy the display.”
Pedroso’s lights are a big hit on the NextDoor app where he gets dozens of compliments and thank yous. He even received a poinsettia plant with a thank-you note, anonymously, one day.
“It was a complete surprise and honestly so touching. It made me think of the great movie on Netflix named ‘Klaus,’ which has the amazing line, ‘A true selfless act always sparks another.’ I am still in awe at the gift and I love the cards.”
A visitor left this poinsettia and sweet note for the Pedroso family thanking them for their holiday decorations.
Pedroso said he is also grateful “to my wife Desiree, and two beautiful daughters, Alexis and Anastasia, for their support and patience.”
Grisselle Detres lives in the same neighborhood near South Miami. Her over-the-top, literally, home display of lights that cover her yard, trees and roof, was recommended by Pedroso.
Detres experienced COVID-19 in August when she and her husband Mel Bomke, and their 10-year-old twin granddaughters got sick.
“We were lucky to survive it,” she said. “We do the lights with love and care and that’s what we hope it brings to others. There is, after all, hope.”
The holiday light display at the Detres-Bomke home, 6150 SW 48th St., includes a giant Santa inflatable and many more Santas, along with angels by a nativity scene.
The family also received a gift of thanks for their light display.
“Yesterday night, an anonymous neighbor left us a poinsettia and a Christmas card on our porch thanking us. Some of my adult children and my grandkids were here and it brought a tear to our eyes and joy to our hearts,” Detres said.
Neighbors share the love they have for others by helping their visitors stay safe. This year, Pedroso set up a pathway of new inflatable characters that he said people are welcome to walk along to take photos, while respecting the personal space of others.
Christmas Eve luminaries
Pedroso also has a new nativity scene, and a very tall West Virginia mountaineer because “My wife is from West Virginia.” He said his street has a Christmas Eve plan to set up luminaries along 46th Terrace. They call it “Santa’s Runway.”
“It’s a tradition that has been going on for decades,” he said.
Lights in the highest treetops at Old Cutler Presbyterian Church, 14401 Old Cutler Road, Palmetto Bay, are the work of Derek Deville and his lighting team.
A little bit of a drive away, at Old Cutler Presbyterian Church, Derek Deville and his team have set up another spectacular display with lights hanging even from the tallest trees.
“It has been an expanding passion that has grown over the years and is of particular importance in this tough year,” Deville said. “I hear so many people struggling with the difficulties of this crazy year and looking for Christmas to bring them the joy they are searching for. I hope the lights can be a part of that and shine love and joy to everyone that sees them.”
His team includes his wife Lesley Deville, Juan Gonzalez, Melanie Deville, Maria Ramirez, Kristen Wallace, Jason Bogk and Trudy Lue.
Passion for lights started with a sale at Target
Deville said his holiday lights passion started in 1993 when he and his wife saw a sale on Christmas lights at Target.
“That year, Target had massively overbought Christmas lights and they were selling them by the case for 90 percent off. It was only $8 per case. They were wheeling out pallets of lights and people were snatching them up. I filled a cart with eight cases and then another cart with eight more.
“At checkout I couldn’t resist and ran back for a third cart full. The pile was so huge we couldn’t fit them into our little Honda and I had to sit in the parking lot and wait while my wife ran a bunch home and then came back for me. And so the obsession began,” Deville said.
After moving, those lights didn’t work anymore, but he still decorated his house even though his December electric bill went way up. When the church asked for a Christmas lights volunteer, Deville stepped up.
As a mechanical engineer, he said he got creative with decorating the tall trees with what he calls “drippy” lights by launching a beanbag with a long string up and over the high branches. His custom-modified string of lights has a very long extension section.
“With this technique from the ground, I’m able to reach the highest branches. Over the years, I’ve refined the process and expanded the number of lights to where it is today. The church property stretches many hundreds of feet and with the help of several church members we light it from end to end with tens of thousands of lights,” Deville said.
For more than 30 years, the Steele family has put up structures with holiday scenes in them as part of their Christmas light display at their home, 19281 Holiday Road, Cutler Bay.Cutler Bay home has 20,000 lights
Drive a little farther south to Cutler Bay, near the intersection of Franjo Road and Caribbean Boulevard, and you can visit the amazing Steele Residence display.
“We have approximately 20,000 lights and 10 Christmas trees in the front yard that are blended into the scenes,” Mark Steele said.
He and his wife Margaret set out a nativity scene with homemade wooden figures and a 20-foot-tall star that tops the scene. He said there is a building filled with stuffed animals and a seesaw and acrobat clown inside.
“Another scene has Santa Claus who talks to the children in his own house. There is also an elf kitchen where elves make candies and cookies. Finally, there is another building where elves make toys in Santa’s Workshop. There is also a choir in a chapel and a Florida snowman,” Steele said. The Steele lights are on through Jan. 6, 2021, from dusk until 11 p.m.
CityPlace Doral doing it up
And this year, numerous new drive-thru events have opened, and most shopping malls have decorated and developed new ways to help us shop while socially distanced.
“We are excited to create a magical atmosphere and offer engaging community activities,” said Alex Schreer, director of experiential marketing at Madison Marquette, which represents CityPlace Doral.
“We have a wonderfully planned holiday season with family-friendly festivities that will truly capture the fun and merriment of the most wonderful time of the year,” Schreer said.
Music and lights together
Back at the Pedroso home, the lights come on at sunset and go off at sunrise, “unless rain affects the display and trips the outlets.”
“I play the music and have lights synced to it from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on most nights, but it depends on if I see lots of folks driving by or walking around,” Pedroso said. “I will also happily turn them on upon request if folks ring my doorbell and request it, as long as it isn’t past 8 p.m.
“Some folks come by and let me know it makes their day a little better just driving by or that their kids ask them to only drive down our street so that they can see the lights,” Pedroso said.
“I have had individuals, who you probably wouldn’t have expected to notice or appreciate the display, actually stop and roll windows down and let me know while I am working on the display how thankful they are for seeing the Christmas spirit alive and well.
“In the end, the hard work is worth it because it lets folks hopefully get to enjoy. Like we all know, there is definitely a need for some spirit, especially this year,” he said.
Where to see Christmas light displays in South Florida
▪ The Pedroso Residence, 6140 SW 46 Terrace
Santa and his reindeer, nutcrackers, inflatable toys and movie characters, along with a tribute to healthcare workers. Walk along a socially distanced pathway.
▪ The Detres Bomke Residence, 6150 SW 48 St.
A giant inflatable Santa along with many smaller Santas, angels with a nativity scene, lights in the trees and a rooftop covered with lights of Christmas joy.
▪ The Steele Residence, 19281 Holiday Road, Cutler Bay
Display includes 20,000 lights, 10 Christmas trees, and a nativity scene with homemade wooden figures. There are themed scenes including an elf kitchen, Santa’s Workshop and a Florida snowman. The lights will be on until Jan. 6.
▪ Old Cutler Presbyterian Church, 14401 Old Cutler Road, Palmetto Bay
Multi-colored lights hang from trees and tiny lights glow in landscaping. Even the highest branches glow with Christmas lights.
▪ Nights of Lights at Pinecrest Gardens, 11000 Red Road, Pinecrest
Though many nights are sold out due to social distancing rules, you can try to see this display 6-10 p.m. until Jan. 3. There is a new section of lights and surprises in the Lower Gardens. Kids can enjoy magical Story Time with Mrs. Claus. Masks must be worn. Reserve at www.pinecrestgardens.org
▪ Santa’s Spectacular Drive-Thru Musical Extravaganza, 11201 SW 24th St.
Drive through Candy Cane Lane on up to the North Pole and sing along to your favorite songs at Tamiami Park. If you decide to leave your cars, you can visit the holiday market for gifts and purchase festive drinks. Tickets are $15-$55 per car at eventbrite.com. Last night is Dec. 23.
▪ Zoo Lights Miami, 12400 SW 152nd Ave.
Tickets are required in advance. More than 1 million tree lights, a 26-foot-tall LED holiday tree and animal appearances. Santa stops by until Dec. 23 with the last appearance at 9:30 p.m. Last date to see display is Dec. 27. Many dates sold out but you can try to reserve at www.zoomiami.org
▪ Bright Lights Miami, 4020 Virginia Beach Drive, Key Biscayne
Travel 40 minutes, without leaving your car, through this holiday display with a laser beam light show and thousands of lights. Expect art and music installations too. This new immersive event runs Friday through Sunday, from 6 to 8 p.m. and 9 to 11 p.m. through Jan. 10. Tickets are $45 per car and available at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bright-lights-miami-tickets-127528076911
▪ Winter Wonderland Festival, 3450 NW 199th St., Miami Gardens
This socially distanced toy-donating event is presented by YWCA South Florida and includes music, food, a photo booth and a visit from Santa. It is one day only, 3-7 p.m., Monday, Dec. 21. Reserve at www.ywcasouthflorida.org
▪ Enchanted Place of North Miami, 1600 NE 137th Terrace, North Miami
Residents in this suburban cul-de-sac have been decorating each year since 1988. They put on an annual free holiday show that includes lighting up the tree canopy. Expect to see multicolored icicle lights, decorated Christmas trees, and illuminated menorahs throughout this drive-thru spectacle of holiday cheer.
▪ Santa’s Post Office at Brickell City Centre, 701 S. Miami Ave.
To respect social distancing, instead of the traditional picture on Santa’s lap, children can watch him make toys and take photos with him from a safe distance. There is also a capacity limit within Santa’s Post Office. Open daily until 6 p.m., Dec. 24.
▪ Light Up The Night at CityPlace, 8300 NW 36th St., Doral
Safely enjoy the multi-colored LED lighting on the center’s Christmas tree and colorful waterfall display choreographed to holiday classics. Open until Dec. 31.
▪ Santa’s Drive-Thru Village, 16805 Miramar Parkway, Miramar
A socially distanced event at Miramar Park featuring light shows, elves, and Santa and Mrs. Claus. You can drive through themed villages including the Elves’ Toy Factory, the Singing Carolers’ Town and Mrs. Claus’ Village. Tickets are $68.99 per car. Visit 6-10 p.m., through Dec. 23. Reserve at www.santasdrivethruvillage.com
▪ Symphony in Lights, Gulfstream Park Village, 901 S. Federal Highway, Hallandale Beach
Gulfstream Park Village has a free display of over 250,000 lights covering trees and buildings all choreographed to the sounds of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and other popular artists. A 15-minute light show begins every hour from 6-11 p.m. Open until Dec. 31.
Celebration of Peace, Calvary Chapel, 2401 West Cypress Creek Road, Fort Lauderdale
Presented by Calvary Chapel, visitors can drive through a free light show, explore Times Square, Santa’s Workshop, an enchanted forest, and even travel back in time, all from the safety of their cars. Reserve at www.celebrationofpeace.com The final event is 6-9 p.m., Dec. 20.