The legendary Arlington neighborhood's light show is iconic. We got to talk to Lake Interlochen HOA President Ralph Sobel to hear about Interlochen’s ambitious beginnings and lasting tenure within Arlington and the state of Texas as definitive Christmas must-see.
NS: Interlochen has been a part of the Spirit of Arlington tradition for many years. How long has it been happening and what started it?
RS: The first year was 1976 and it started as a real estate promotion for a brand-new subdivision on what was then the far outskirts of Arlington. The developer and his wife came up with the idea because there was not widespread Christmas lighting like there is now, and certainly not in private homes. So, it was really done by Bob and Carole Findlay to help sell the new neighborhood that they had developed and call attention to it.
NS: With something of this magnitude, it’s always so inspiring to know that people get together to create great things. Has there been a core group participating in making this even a reality from the beginning?
RS: There have been ten residents who still live in the neighborhood and have decorated since the beginning and still decorate, including Carole Findlay, but it’s not super organized. It’s very organic – people do their own thing, it’s exciting that it all comes together. Some people decorate early some people decorate late, some people do it themselves. Some people hire decorators. We do have an HOA board that kind of coordinates communications with the police and the media to get publicity. But there are very few rules and everyone does their own thing.
NS: Are there certain standards that need to be met for home owners in Interlochen to heed?
RS: There’s no real rules. Everyone just tries to make the best presentation they can, but they don’t have to decorate. Some older people don’t. Some people have to go away on vacation or illness catches some of us, but the other fun thing is neighbors help neighbors in those situations. You know this morning, I helped one of my neighbors put up something. She’s been under the weather. It’s such a great spirit, such community, such volunteerism. The only pleasure is in the giving. It’s not a tax write-off. We have a higher electric bill, we impose traffic on ourselves but it doesn’t really enhance the value of our homes. While a lot of people love it, there’s a lot of people who don’t want to be a part of it. It’s just really something that’s fun to do, it’s a gift in itself and it’s a tradition.
NS: What can we expect in years ahead?
RS: There is more technology being used. People are switching to LED lights. People are switching to computerized music. People are using more light shows than they did in the past, but overall it’s really an old school presentation, relative to some of the modern professional commercial presentations. It’s very residential and traditional. And no one tries to outdo one another – but I’m not sure that’s the case. [He laughs]
NS: Do you have any tips or recommendations for those of us want to come and beat the crowds?
RS: It’s usually less crowded on a weeknight rather than on a weekend, come closer to the beginning. It’s much less crowded if you come at 7 o’clock than if you come at 8:30. It’s fun to see people come through when they were kids and now twenty-five years later, they’re taking their kids which means we’re all getting old, or the tradition is getting passed on to future generations. But, make sure you go to the bathroom before you come to Interlochen!
NS: Is there anything you want to tell people -any certain rules that people need to know, facts or figures?
RS: You know people are quite good about it so really don’t have to do that, but we ask that the residents not to sell hot cocoa or solicit donations because that could make it dangerous for the people stepping out into the streets to accept money, it could be dangerous for a driver who is distracted by the lights. It’s easy to say “don’t throw anything out of your car,” but people don’t. People really appreciate the fact that they have a free family-oriented thing to go to. You see so many couples on first dates. You see so many minivans filled with three generations of people, and you also see limos come through, so this can appeal to pretty much anyone and I think that also is one of the charms of it. So many other things are expensive to do as a family and this is something that is free, it’s local and from our standpoint – people are so thankful. They yell out the window they say “Merry Christmas” they say “thank you” because they really do appreciate it. It’s really hard to dwell on anything negative. The only negative thing is if you’re a resident, you don’t want to go to the store and forget one thing because it’s a pain in the butt to get out of the neighborhood if you forgot a gallon of milk.
The other cool thing is with the advent of the internet, and we get international visitors. We get people in town, in DFW for something else that come to see the lights. That also is something fun for us – it’s not just an Arlington thing, it’s certainly widespread through DFW and people come a long way. Even people in town for other things find ways to visit. They’re all welcome at Interlochen.
Check the Interlochen Lights starting December 14 thru Christmas Night from 7 pm to 11 pm in the iconic Interlochen neighborhood. Starts at Westwood Dr. at Randol Mill Rd. Arlington, TX. For the full map click here.