The annual Christmas lights display in Plano’s Deerfield neighborhood has become a destination for holiday lovers across North Texas. The event dates back to the late 1980s when the neighborhood was still being built. At the time, there was not much out there. Developers looking for ways to attract people to the area started a contest awarding a $5,000 prize for the best light display. The runner-up received $2,500, and third place won a grand.
There are no cash prizes today, but the friendly competitive spirit endures as residents work to outdo each other each holiday season.
Melissa and David Looper moved to Deerfield 15 years ago and served on the neighborhood lights committee for years. They typically begin working on their display in late spring or early summer.
“Even before we moved, we were over the top with holiday decorations, but we’ve taken it to a new level here,” Melissa says.
The Loopers prefer DIY displays. On a recent September morning, they were out on their driveway in an alley working on some new Christmas deer. David cut out the forms while Melissa painted and detailed them.
David noticed a few years ago that the displays contained few “deer,” despite the neighborhood’s name. So he took it upon himself to craft some.
These are replacement deer.
“They’re good for a couple for years and then need to be redone,” he says.
Neighborhood committees coordinate carriage rides, sponsorships and the annual tree-lighting ceremony, but the actual decorating is up to homeowners. Some neighbors team up to coordinate decor. Others prefer to keep their plans under wraps until the big reveal. Nobody is required to participate, but it has become a point of pride for many residents.
The Loopers used to walk the neighborhood to count how many of their neighbors were participating, when they were members of the lights committee. On a good year, nearly 80% of Deerfield homes have at least one lighted element in December.
Those participants are not limited to families who celebrate Christmas. People from around the world now call the neighborhood home.
Several neighbors put out Hanukkah-themed displays, including one featuring spinning dreidels. Some Hindu households that celebrate Diwali have started keeping their lights up into the Christmas season.
“The great thing about our neighborhood is the diversity,” David says. “It’s just a place where people can come together and enjoy.”
For those who live there, the competitive spirit is also accompanied by an equal spirit of cooperation. David recalls a time when a big storm hit, knocking down much of his display. But when he returned, everything looked untouched. Turns out, a group of neighbors took it upon themselves to set everything back up.
Some have also begun to decorate the homes of older neighbors.
The unofficial start to the Christmas-lights season is Thanksgiving night, though it sometimes takes a few days to get everybody up and running. For David and Melissa, this is what makes it all worthwhile. Though the streets may be crowded, they say it’s a minor inconvenience they are more than happy to put up with. They enjoy going outside, reconnecting with neighbors and meeting new people.
“We see people from every walk of life and every faith. It’s so cool,” Melissa says.