Part of the show at the fairgrounds.
(Courtesy Fairgrounds Foundation)
Pandemic Life

A pandemic-friendly holiday lights show? The fairgrounds deliver the drive-thru

Holiday revelers can buy tickets online and experience the light show at the fairgrounds without getting out of the car.

Yes, Virginia, there is a distinctly 2020-ish way to mark the holiday season, and the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds is tuned into it.

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The fairgrounds outside Watsonville is putting on a completely pandemic-safe holiday light show to enjoy without getting out of the car.

Similar to the famously popular Fantasy of Lights celebration that takes place every year at Vasona Lake County Park in Los Gatos, the fairgrounds event has transformed the site into a drive-thru scene, featuring nearly half a million individual lights that form a kind of maze on the grounds.

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“This is the first time we’ve ever done this,” said Stephanie Fontana, the incoming chair of the Santa Cruz County Fair’s board of directors. “We’re not quite Vasona Park yet.”

Lights galore.
(Courtesy Fairgrounds Foundation)

The show takes place Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. through Dec. 27 (except for Christmas Day when the event is closed).

Fontana said that the event is encouraging online purchasing of tickets to eliminate person-to-person contact at the site. Online reservations allow visitors to choose a half-hour increment of time during the show’s open hours. Tickets are $15 per car.

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Once on site, cars can move slowly through the light show, which lasts about 20 minutes. Stopping or getting out of the car is not permitted.

“You’ll be asked to turn your headlights off, and you go through a half-mile journey through the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds that is now Holiday Lights Park,” said Fontana. “We even have our own radio station — 99.9 FM — which plays holiday music.”

At the end of the loop, there will be a food station set up to purchase familiar fair food items such as cinnamon rolls, curly fries and kettle corn.

Fontana said that the fair is planning to make the holiday lights show a new tradition every holiday season.