flashing xmas lights
Grand Highly Illuminated House Tour
flashing xmas lights

Let's put the X back in Xmas!

As seen on Bravo!That 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.

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 imaginable.

It's a Very Mad Dog Xmas!
Photo by Stuart T. Wagner, courtesy
of the Richmond Times Dispatch

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 more decorations.

Now that's a legacy to be proud of.


Richmond’s Tacky Lights are featured on CBS Sunday Morning on Sunday, Dec. 18 because host Bill Geist says Richmond is the "tacky lights capital of the world.” (See their slideshow)

"Inspired by Richmond's Tacky Light Tour," Hampton Roads/ Virginia Beach starts its own "Tidewater Tinsel Tour." (And Lynchburg, VA too!)

From 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."


This was the 25th Anniversary of the Tacky Xmas Decoration Contest and Grand Highly Illuminated House Tour.


Photos from the official 25th Anniversary bus tour sponsored by Winn Transportation and featuring Mad Dog as the tour host, brought back to Richmond just for the occasion!

Terry Rea writes about his trip on the bus for the 25th Anniversary Tacky Lights Tour.

Richmond.com's article about Richmond Tacky Light Tour Day.

Businessweek features Richmond and Mad Dog's Tacky Xmas Tour in "Christmas Lights, Taken to Extremes" - Nov 18, 2010

Previous Years

SlantBlog once again serves up Tacky Lights info, including a photo gallery of a walking tour of lights in Richmond, VA's Fan District

SlantBlog offers up its Tacky Lights history. And sets the record straight.

Hear Mad Dog talk about the Tacky Xmas Tour on NPR Morning Edition!

The Richmond Times-Dispatch talks about this year's big houses and the origin of the tour

click here
Eye on R-Town talks about the Tacky Xmas Tour being included in the upcoming Bravo TV special.

The first San Francisco Bay Area Neo-Expressionist Illuminated Sculpture list. You know, what you call Tacky Xmas lights!

click hereEven the Charleston, SC Post and Courier liked the 2004 San Francisco list!
red_bulb.gif (1042 bytes) Read Cynthia McMullen's 2004 article from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
green bulbRead Bill McElway's cool 1996 article from the Richmond Times Dispatch.
red_bulb.gif (1042 bytes)Read Cynthia McMullen's fun article from the 1999 Richmond Times Dispatch
Read Cynthia's article from 2001
green bulbCheck out the 2004 Richmond Tacky Xmas houses at WWBT-12's page.
red_bulb.gif (1042 bytes)See what LAXmas '98 was like.
See photos of Richmond's 2000 Xmas houses.

red bulbSee photos of some of Richmond's 1998 Xmas displays.
gr_bulb.gif (1030 bytes)Meet Big Boy Santa, the star of LAXmas '99


Check out some other Tacky Xmas sites:
- Lightasmic - 30 displays and 2 million lights in Bakersfield, CA. As seen on America's Greatest Christmas Decorations
Planet Christmas - Decorated houses, how to do it yourself, where to buy decorations and more
Holly's Recommended Christmas Lights - The best of Fairfax County/Northern Virginia
- Global Christmas Lights Tour
- Christmas Lights in Central Texas (CAUTION:   This guy's no relation!!)
- Clot Family Xmas
- Kevin's Christmas Display
- Let There Be Lights - an art car!


PLEASE!   If you know of any good photos of or sites about the biggest, the best, the most ostentatious Xmas displays, please let me know.


  Skywriting at Night - a novel by Mad Dog

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