Winterhaven neighborhood resident Carolyn Garliepp gets a hand from her 2-year-old daughter Jaelyn McBride setting their Grinch and Nightmare Before Christmas yard decorations for the annual Winterhaven Festival of Lights.

Many Tucsonans have memories that include strolling through the Winterhaven neighborhood in December — sipping hot cocoa, writing a wish on a piece of colorful construction paper and staring at the houses that put on stunning light shows for all of us to enjoy.

After taking a year off for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Winterhaven Festival of Lights returns this weekend.

"Winterhaven is very pleased to announce that we are again planning to have the Festival of Lights this year," said John Lansdale, the festival’s chair, in a statement on the event’s website in September.

"We want to assure you all that we will do everything in our powers to follow city guidelines and to make sure this event is held in the safest possible manner," Lansdale said.

The festival, which features homes upon homes with impressive light shows and holiday displays, kicks off this weekend, Saturday, Dec. 11, and goes through the festival's drive-thru night on Sunday, Dec. 26. You can stroll through the neighborhood daily until then, from 6-10 p.m.

"I hope you all are as excited as us that this great event is back on the calendar. We will do our best to make it the best festival ever," Lansdale said. 

A home with a Star Wars motif features quite a few stormtroopers at the 70th Winterhaven Festival of Lights, Tucson, Ariz., December 17, 2019.

In addition to walking through the neighborhood and seeing the residents' twinkling homes on foot, reservations are also available for hay rides, party bikes and trolleys.

Donation stations for the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona will also be at every Winterhaven entrance. While the festival is free to attend, organizers ask attendees to bring a donation of food or money.

Most needed items are peanut butter, oatmeal, cereal, granola bars, canned tomato products, canned tuna and chicken, canned soup, canned vegetables, canned fruit, rice, pasta and shelf-stable milk.

The festival's website says the food bank raised $22,015 and gathered 46,474 pounds of food during the 2019 Winterhaven Festival of Lights.

The festival began in 1949 with CB Richards, who was inspired by a similar festival in California.

If you go

What: Winterhaven Festival of Lights.

When: 6-10 p.m. daily, Saturday, Dec. 11 through Sunday, Dec. 26. Dec. 26 is the drive-thru day.

Where: Winterhaven neighborhood. North of East Fort Lowell Road, south of East Prince Road. East of North Tucson Boulevard, west of North Country Club Road. Find a map here.

Cost: Free to attend. Donations to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona are recommended.

More information: Find the website here.

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