The Santa Rita Christmas lights were turned on Monday night, and with them, the traditional Christmas shadowboxes for which the Santa Rita Homeowners Association are so well known.
Co-chairs of this year’s event Claudia Cleere and Dennis Grafa were on hand
Pointing to the shadowboxes on display on the 1800 block of Algerita Drive, Grafa explained that “It’s the “Night Before Christmas” story…You know when we were putting them up over Thanksgiving, the kids would come up and say, ‘oh look at this! It’s Christmas!'”
Over the years, the homeowners have upgraded the shadowboxes. Grafa, who has been involved with the event and the display since 1994, said that the boxes formerly were held together within heavy, burdensome wooden frames. Today, the frames are made of lighter-weight, and more durable steel after repairs were made following a storm that damaged the display in 1996.
Sandy Whitley is the de facto historian of the origin of the boxes. She told Rick Smith that they were built for the 1948 Christmas season and displayed in a Harlingen bakery. Neill G. Delaney Jr. bought the display and transported it to San Angelo in 1952. The pieces were displayed at a local bakery, and then on the grounds of old Fort Concho for a while. But soon the boxes were stored and forgotten for many years until Whitley and the homeowners discovered and revived the displays in 1992.
It’s been a Santa Rita tradition ever since.
The Santa Rita Christmas lights and shadowboxes are well lit and open for viewing every night from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. In a car, you should start your tour driving eastbound from 1800 Algerita Drive, at the intersection of Paseo de Vaca Street.