Photo gallery: Decorated lampposts light up neighborhood spirits in Loma Portal
The light posts in a section of Loma Portal date to the early 1900s. They were erected mostly in the middle of intersections, forming mini roundabouts.
During the winter holiday season, like Maypoles in spring, they become rallying beacons for neighbors who decorate them in ribbons, bows, garlands, ornaments and wreaths. In some cases, battery- or solar-operated twinkling lights are added.
People who live in the homes at the cross streets generally take on the decorating duties. If a family moves away, the box of light pole decorations often is passed to the new homeowner or a willing neighbor.
Nanci Clifford, who lives at Locust and Freeman streets, said the lamp trimming has sparked a block party each year.
Earlier this month, about seven families joined in decorating the lamps at each end of her block. Longtime residents Tim and Kelly Lane brought their popular spiced cider, and others furnished appetizers and Christmas music. The kids played while teenagers and adults transformed the poles into holiday attractions.
This year, one of the lampposts was decked out in traditional Christmas colors with garlands, pine cones, ribbons, stars, ornaments and lights. Another was a vision of Hanukkah-inspired blue, white and silver in honor of a Jewish family on the block who is preparing to move to Europe.
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“It’s a really life-giving activity for all of us ... such a fun time,” Clifford said.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the block’s lampposts have been the centerpieces for drive-by celebrations marking birthdays and other special occasions — even a wedding.
If a block party is planned, a sign is placed on a lamppost. “We love our poles,” Clifford said.
In years past, the decorating has been spontaneous, but this year the tradition is taking on renewed vitality. All 24 intersection street lamps, along with four other historical posts at curbside, have been transformed into messages of holiday cheer.
One carries a dog theme with bone ornaments and Santa’s naughty and nice canine list. Another is decked out in Christmas sweaters. A third has a nutcracker theme. A fourth is bedecked with candy canes. A fifth has wrapped presents around its base. One even plays music when a vehicle drives by.
The street lamps are around the north side of Rosecrans Street across from Liberty Station. They stretch from Curtis Street northeast to Kingsley Street and from Clove Street southeast to Locust Street.
Matt D'Arrigo, founder and former head of A Reason to Survive, or ARTS — a creative-projects program for youths — has lived in the neighborhood since 2008. About eight years ago, a neighbor handed over a box of pole decor to him.
“I decorate it with my daughter, Tessa [age 15], and some neighbors,” D'Arrigo said. “We make an event out of it and all meet up and do it together. It’s a family tradition for us.”
This year they attached three wreaths around the top of their pole, twirled garland and red ribbon down the post like a candy cane and tucked artificial poinsettias around the base. “It’s classic Christmas,” D'Arrigo said. “We thought about adding more to it, but we like the simplicity of it.”
On Dec. 1, resident Corey Wyatt circulated a flier announcing a neighborly contest (lomaportaldecoratingcontest.com) for the best-decorated street lamps, to be decided by popular vote with a deadline of midnight Sunday, Dec. 26. He plans to award prizes for first, second and third place on Dec. 28.
Wyatt wants to make the contest an annual event that culminates in a community gathering with hot cocoa and carolers.
He is a real estate agent who has long lived in the Point Loma area and is very familiar with Loma Portal, though he didn’t move there until early 2020.
“For every year as long as I can remember, there have been decorations here,” he said.
He said he’s getting a lot of positive feedback to the contest idea. It has inspired some folks to freshen the decor and step up their game. Wyatt, who has kids ages 7, 9 and 15, joined three other families in sprucing up his lamppost.
Nancy Palmtag, who lives at Goldsmith and Locust streets, said, “We’ve lived here almost 45 years and it has always happened — it’s an organic thing.”
She and her husband, Herb, used to be in charge of the pole at their intersection, but they’ve let the younger generation take over. After all, some of the lamps stand more than 15 feet tall and require an extension ladder to access.
When it’s time to take down the decorations, residents untrim the light poles themselves, said Waskah Whelan, who once decorated the lamppost near her Loma Portal home.