If you take a look at the Mustians’ stately brick colonial in Walton Park decked out for the holidays, it’s impossible to call it tacky. But it does evoke exclamations of “Wow!” during the holiday season.
“We like to refer to our house as ‘tastefully tacky,’” Katy Lloyd-Mustian said of her home at 12618 Dawnridge Court.
When Lloyd-Mustian fell for her dream house in 2013, she didn’t know about the holiday decorating tradition that came with it.
“I told my friends, ‘I found this great house on Dawnridge Court. What do you think?’ And my friend said, ‘You know that’s Christmas Court, right?’” Lloyd-Mustian recalled with a laugh.
Dawnridge Court has been something of a tacky-lights secret in the Richmond area. Many of the houses on the Midlothian cul-de-sac have been lighting up for almost 30 years, but not everybody knew about it. That wasn’t until Sports Backers chose the likable, well-lit neighborhood as the site for its Tacky Light Run three years ago. Ever since then, the secret’s been out. Walton Park is a great neighborhood for holiday lights — especially on Dawnridge Court.
Roughly 20 houses on the cul-de-sac light up every season. It’s bright. It’s Christmas-y. And it’s fun.
The Mustians revealed their new theme, “Christmas in Margaritaville,” earlier this week.
“We’re big beach people,” Lloyd-Mustain said.
They draped their front lawn with blue lights to look like waves. There’s Santa on a water scooter pulling a reindeer, animals relaxing on the beach in Adirondack chairs, Rudolph in a lifeguard chair and a boat pulled up to the beach. They even transformed their front porch into a “tiki bar” with a thatched roof and a “bar open” sign.
“We’ve had a few folks stop and jokingly ask what the drink specials are,” Lloyd-Mustain said.
The Mustians’ beach theme won the “best theme” from Sports Backers the first year they decorated.
Friends describe it as a “combination of tacky and beautiful at the same time.”
Last year, the Mustians went shopping after Christmas when decorations were 50 percent off. Tom Mustian just built a shed behind the garage solely for Christmas lights storage.
The Mustians get plenty of help from their neighbors. Lloyd-Mustian’s college roommate, Paula Chamberlain, and her husband, Bryan, live a few blocks away and help decorate every year.
The Chamberlains decorate their house with two 20-foot inflatables and a 9-foot Santa, but because they aren’t on the main drag of the Tacky Light Run, they prefer to spend the majority of their time helping the Mustians go “over the top.”
“The kids like playing together outside in the dark. They’ll be riding their scooters in the driveway while we’re putting up lights. We’ll take a break, go inside, make some hot dogs for dinner and then go back outside to put up some more lights,” Lloyd-Mustian said.
The Mustians were in the yard almost every weekend in November, stringing up lights. Now they are fully lit with 70,000 lights and a new display, well in advance of the CarMax Tacky Light Run on Dec. 12.
Pat and Donna Snee are credited for starting the tacky-light tradition in Walton Park. The Snees, originally from New Jersey, moved to 12617 Dawnridge Court more than 25 years ago and brought their tacky lights with them.
Maureen and Dennis Gaulden live two houses from the Snees and started decorating their home at 12613 Dawnridge Court at about the same time.
“We saw what the Snees were doing,” Maureen Gaulden said. “And we thought we’d be festive, too.”
Their display grew over the years, but the Gauldens say their lights are more traditional than tacky, with white lights on the bushes, twinkle lights, wreaths, reindeer, and blue lights that make a pond. But like almost everyone in the neighborhood, they have a friendly competition going with the Snees.
“Every year, I think the Snees cannot possibly get anything else in their yard, but they always do,” Gaulden said.
Houses on Dawnridge Court decorate in different ways. But you know you’re there when you see the “Happy Holidays” banner draped across the street.
Houses are decorated with candy canes, polar bears, Santas, Nativity scenes and Hanukkah decorations. You name it, they’ve got it.
“Even before the Tacky Light Run, Dawnridge Court has always been a huge traffic jam. But for good reason. It’s always exciting to see more people get involved and to see it grow over the years,” Chamberlain said.
“All of the neighbors are outside and decorating. We come into each other’s yards and look at each other’s decorations. It’s neat to have everyone on the street doing the same thing. It’s a real sense of community, and we really enjoy it,” Lloyd-Mustian said.
During the CarMax Tacky Light Run, the whole neighborhood turns into a cheer zone with fire pits in driveways. Last year, 4,000 people participated in the run. The Sports Backers organization is hoping to sell out this year at 5,000. But you don’t have to join the organized run to see the neighborhood. People flock to Walton Park to see the holiday lights.
“We’re like a tiny little Mayberry right here in Midlothian,” Chamberlain said. “It’s a wonderful place to live.”
Especially during the holidays.
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