Longtime tradition lights up Sunset

December 10, 2001|By JENNIFER RALTON-SMITH, Staff Writer

Remember when your parents yelled at you to turn off the lights?

Clearly the residents of Sunset Drive in Brawley are ignoring the admonition that was part of everyone's growing up.

Since shortly after Thanksgiving, the residents have been keeping smiles on the bean counters' faces at the Imperial Irrigation District by festooning their entire street with Christmas lights and decorations — and revving up the kilowatt hours.

What started as a couple Sunset Drive folks decorating their front lawns for Christmas has turned into a yearly tradition where all 29 houses on the street are lighted up like — well, like Christmas trees — throughout December.

While no one can pinpoint the exact year the whole thing started, longtime resident Ethel Lange says she's been part of the tradition since 1957, and it wasn't a new concept then.

It's not simply a matter of putting up a few lights on the oleander next to the mailbox. These folks take their decorating seriously.


Lange described how neighbor David Hoskins brings in a forklift to facilitate hanging strands of large Christmas lights across the street, linking houses on both sides.

Don't think you're exempt from lighting up if you've just moved onto the street as a renter.

With a smile, Lange related how new neighbors were gravely informed by their landlord that "This is a Christmas Street — you have to decorate."

Even unoccupied houses will be decorated by neighbors.

Down at the north end of the street, Noel and Monica Bravo's house is ablaze with light and color.

While Monica Bravo cheerfully concedes her power bill usually goes up by at least $50 for the month, her husband eyes the front lawn speculatively.

"When you've finished decorating, you stand back and take a look. And then you start thinking, well, sure … maybe I could fit in a little bit more over there on the left," Noel Bravo said, grinning at his wife.

Across the street from the Bravos, neighbor Teresa Grindley remembers driving down the street at Christmastime with her parents when she was a little girl.

"It was always a Christmas tradition with our family that we would go and buy our Christmas tree and then we would drive down Sunset Drive to look at all the Christmas decorations and lights," she said.

Grindley smiled at the memory as she stood curbside watching as car after car, almost all filled with children, came slowly down the street with lights out to get the full benefit of this super light show.

The people on Sunset don't only rely on electricity for their Christmas show.

On Christmas Eve they douse the lights, move their cars off the street and light up some 1,500 luminarios.

So if you happen to be up the North End on Christmas Eve, take a drive down Sunset Drive in Brawley and see for yourself how seriously these folks take Christmas.

You might just happen to see Noel Bravo standing on his front lawn wondering if that oleander next to the mailbox isn't looking just a tad bare.

>>Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337 3442 or

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