RANCHO CUCAMONGA - In the movie "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation," Chevy Chase sets up a Christmas light display of epic proportions.
For the real deal, one should look no further than Thoroughbred Street in Rancho Cucamonga. While the film has just one spectacularly decorated home, dozens of homes up and down the street for a half a mile, are decorated with elaborate Christmas lights and holiday displays.
The scene is familiar to anyone who has been to Disneyland.
The brightly lit, festively decorated residential street draws thousands every year, some traveling hours to see the spectacle of holiday lights, animatronic displays, and messages of peace.
Some residents sell coffee, hot cocoa, churros, cookies and popcorn for the hundreds of people that walk up and down the street every night for a few weeks in the run-up to Christmas. The event has become a Southern California attraction every year for at least the past two decades.
On a recent night, smiling crowds filed down the street. A procession of cars and buses slowly traveled down the lane, with occupants enjoying the colorful sights. The street is blocked off by deputies to one-way traffic. Residents say it takes 45 minutes to get home if they're arriving after dusk.
This event is so huge, it takes a special detachment of sheriff's deputies to divert traffic. Trash boxes are placed along the route by a local trash hauler. Some of the homes contract with a security company, though residents say the crowds are largely peaceful. This year, residents say they've been required to get permits to sell food.
Isaias Solano owns a home on Thoroughbred near Sapphire and sells hot cocoa, popcorn and chips to the crowds.
Residents say that despite the traffic congestion that can happen every night, the event is a happy one. The point is to delight visitors, they say.
"A lot of people enjoy coming and getting in the Christmas mood," said resident Cheryl Fowler. "I love to see the little kids get excited. It's good for parents to get kids out of the house, instead of watching TV and playing video games." Resident John Sommers said most visitors don't cause issues for the street.
"I think most people who come here are joyous of everything," Sommers said. "Most are not disrespectful. They appreciate everything we do."
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