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Illustration by Arnel Reynon
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Runners participating in the CarMax Tacky Light Run on Dec. 14 will pass through the Walton Park neighborhood in Midlothian, where residents go all out decorating their houses for the holidays. Photo courtesy Sports Backers
It's time to adjust your Rudolph nose, throw on your gaudiest holiday sweater and head to the CarMax Tacky Light Run on Dec. 14. Tacky lights are always part of the holidays in the Richmond area, but this year the Sports Backers are adding another layer to the tacky-light tradition.
"Jon Lugbill, our executive director, has been eyeing this event for a few years," says Jackie Stoneburner, Sports Backers' public relations and communications manager. Lugbill has been scoping out his favorite tacky-light houses each year, trying to pinpoint a good location for the new event. The difficult part of his search was finding a subdivision that "had enough volume" of neighbors decorating their homes in tacky lights. Fortunately he happened upon Walton Park in Midlothian, where neighbors go all-out for the holidays. "We wanted to bring the run to Walton Park because they had so much holiday spirit and enthusiasm," Stoneburner says. "We wanted to add to that."
Some of the homes in Walton Park are already listed on the Tacky Light Tour. "In particular, Dawnridge Court, where the course will turn around, is spectacular," says Stoneburner. "They have lights that go across the street and create an archway. All the neighbors in the cul-de-sac participate." She is hoping that people who may not have decorated in the past will get the urge to light up their homes this year knowing that up to 5,000 runners will be passing by. Roads in Walton Park will start closing down at 5 p.m. for the six o'clock start of the run. The 6K course starts and finishes on Woolridge Road, adjacent to Midlothian Mines Park. "The tacky light tours will have to reroute for the hours of the event," Stoneburner says. Participants in the event will be able to win all sorts of awards, from the Best Tacky Sweater to Will the REAL Santa Claus Please Stand Up (most authentic Santa); from Jingle All the Way (participant with the most holiday sound) to Merry & Bright (brightest-dressed). "People will be able to vote that night for the overall tackiest house," Stoneburner says. "We will also give out awards for the classiest, best themed and most-likely-to-blow-a-fuse houses. We will have all kinds of fun awards." Runners will also find milk and cookie stations along the course, in addition to water and "selfie stops," where they can take photos of themselves on their smartphones. "There will be cut-outs you can stick your head in," Stoneburner says. "And there will be hot chocolate at the finish line." Stoneburner stresses that the race is not a timed event. "We want people to stop and have fun and enjoy the houses," she says. "Instead of a finisher medal, our medal can be used as a Christmas ornament. We will have a different one each year." The organization hopes the event catches on and that people outside of the area take notice. "We would like them to plan their trip here for this event," Stoneburner says, adding that registration numbers have been strong. "Within the first 12 days that registration was open, we saw more than 1,500 people register. The non-timed, non-race event appeals to people of all ages. Strollers will be allowed, and walkers are welcome. "This is something the family can do together," Stoneburner says. "Dig out your holiday sweater, or find a Rudolph nose and join the holiday festivities." Diane Barrus, chairman of The Miracle of Christmas at Metro Richmond Zoo, is also looking for big crowds during Miracle of Christmas on Dec. 21, 22 and 23. Last year, the three-day event drew nearly 7,000 people. This marks the 11th year for the event. The Miracle of Christmas is a reenactment of the Christmas story, complete with live donkeys, camels, cows, sheep and goats. "I think it's the animals that make it unique," Barrus says. "They add so much, and at the end [of the performance] you can take pictures of the cast and animals." She hopes people attending the event will find it fun and uplifting. "People come to put Christmas back into the holiday season," she says. Performances will take place at 7, 7:45 and 8:30 each night. "Last year, we added a Spanish pageant," Barrus says. "This year, it will be on Dec. 23 at 9 p.m." Attendees will find free parking and free admission, as well as Krispy Kreme doughnuts and hot chocolate. Musical groups will perform between the shows. "The event is outside, and if it's cold, you need to dress warmly," Barrus says.