was the official motto of Richmond, Virginia's Tacky
Xmas Decoration Contest and Grand Highly Illuminated House
Tour. Started in 1986 (it's all a blur of bright
lights and illuminated Santas), it quickly grew into a monster.
Dr. Frankenstein has nothing on us.
Photo by Stuart T. Wagner, courtesy
of the Richmond Times Dispatch
It began as a sneaky way to find out where the biggest, brightest,
and gaudiest Xmas decorations were. The first bus sold out
in four hours and a second one sold out the next day. Houses
were solicited; judges drove around drinking wine and rating
the houses in categories like Overall Wattage, Motion, Sound
Effects, the Holy Shit Factor, and Bad Acid Flashback; and
when the night of the tour came around there were an estimated
100 cars trailing behind the buses. Six made it all the way.
The winners received money, ornaments, and the tackiest trophies
Since then the lights have blossomed and the city of Richmond
has become obsessed with Xmas lights. Radio stations promote
charity bus tours, every limousine and bus company gives
paid tours, the TV stations show shots of the houses behind
the weather, and the newspaper prints weekly lists of the
houses. And more and more houses are putting up more and
Now that's a legacy to be proud of.
Richmond's #7 on Travel + Leisure's "Best Lights in the Country" List
"If you’re looking for fantastically tacky Christmas displays, Richmond takes the cake with its 'Tacky Lights Tour'." Not too shabby! Check it out (and the competition)
Long Time Tour House Win TV Light Competition!
Al and Esther Thompson, who have been decorating their house for over 40 years and are long-time Tacky Tour favorites, won $50,000 (!) by winning ABC's "The Great Christmas Light Fight."
Tacky Light Tours: 30 years ago, Barry “Mad Dog” Gottlieb Changed Christmas in Richmond Forever
Style Weekly takes a flattering look at how it all started and what it's become.
Richmond photographer Daryl Watkins used a drone to shoot video of Al and Esther Thompson’s at 9716 Wendhurst Drive in Henrico County, giving you a view of tacky lights like you've never seen. Story and the video here.
This Year's (Unofficial and Overly Complete) List
The most current, complete, and up-to-date list for 2014, courtesy of Richmond.com and the Richmond Times Dispatch.
The Tacky Xmas Tour makes the Travel Channel!
Check out Xtreme Xmason the Travel Channel (also available On Demand and in reruns on Comcast and other cable networks) featuring the Tacky Xmas Tour, the Pfeiffers, Frank Hudak and more! (NOTE TO TRAVEL CHANNEL: It wasn't started as a joke, it was started as a lark.)
Famous on the West Coast too!
Richmond's Tacky Xmas Tour is prominently mentioned in an article in the Daily Titan, the newspaper at California State University, Fullerton, in an article about a highly illuminated house in town.
The (Unofficial) List for 2013
Here's richmond.com's list of the best houses to check out in Richmond for 2013.
Natalie Handel of Agence France-Presse tells the world about Richmond being the Tacky Xmas Capital!
the bestseller "Black Notice" by Patricia Cornwell.
"I reached the Midlothian Turnpike and could see Marino's
house long before I got near it. His gaudy, outrageous
Christmas decorations, including some three hundred thousand
lights, glowed above the horizon like an amusement
park. All one had to do was follow the steady traffic heading
that way, because Marino's house had risen to number one
on Richmond's annual Christmas Tacky Tour. People couldn't
resist coming to see what was truly an amazing sight."