Lights in the Heights Survives, Sort of

Categories: Spaced City

lightsheighCROP.jpg
Woodland Heights Civic Association
A tranquil scene from Lights in the Heights
Lights in the Heights, the holiday festival that has grown to overwhelm the quiet Woodland Heights neighborhood that hosts it, will return in 2011. There'll be some changes made, however.

Martin Hajovsky, the keeper of all Heights information, says that after some discussions about ending the event, organizers will keep it alive. (We've contacted the Woodland Heights Civic Association for info, but have yet to hear back.)

Among the changes, he says:

Earlier start: Revising the hours from 5-8 p.m. instead of last year's 6-10 p.m. This is planned to get the streets cleared earlier, and thus ending the late-night revelry.

Parade: De-emphasizing the parade while "increasing its ties to the community."

No trucks: Removing food vendors at the Norhill esplanade and street corners.

Police enforcement: Working with the police to enforce laws, especially with regard to illegal drinking and parking.

As it happens, we used to live in Woodland Heights when Lights in the Heights was first born. And at Ground Zero, too: Norhill and Euclid, right off the esplanade.

Back then it seems it involved little more than luminarias on the front-lawn walks and low-key strolling between houses. Eventually -- timed judiciously with the arrival of our kid -- it grew to include Santas, a village on the esplanade, more elaborate decorations, semi-open houses for food and drink, and sleigh rides.

Now, the modest neighborhood with small streets gets swamped by, according to some estimates, 50,000 revelers who make it a mini-Mardi Gras.

Clearly something had to be done; we hope this plan succeeds, because it'd be a shame to lose an organically homegrown event like this.

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jiayoua
jiayoua

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mollusk
mollusk

I too live at LITH ground zero, and have done so since it started.  I do not now nor have I ever owned a Subaru, though I've rented one on occasion.  I enjoy having a good time, which often includes the use of adult beverages.  Shoot, I've even had an ice luge in the front yard a time or three.  That said, however...

LITH gradually grew over the years.  Last year, however, suddenly went beyond a tipping point.  For a couple hours at least, it wasn't even possible to limit traffic to the street and sidewalks, much less keep the luminaria lit.  My dogs, who normally love seeing people, were downright terrified.  A few friends who'd come over to do the walk ended up just sheltering in place.  And I would love to personally brain whoever came up with the brilliant idea for food trucks - picking up that debris was just delightful.

I've enjoyed the tradition, and think it's normally way easier to live with than to be in one of those neighborhoods where the uniform themed lights get sold with the house, so scores of people can drive past slowly for weeks on end.  But criminey, we've got to have some sort of happy medium here.

Cookie6506
Cookie6506

Not to mention all those lights and electricity and more ozoning.  Oh yeah, and what about fire hazard of those lights this year.  Our Heights houses are kindling for one little spark!

Joe
Joe

I didn't make it last year and I grew up in the heights.  Sad to hear that.

iMidget
iMidget

How about a ticket system?  Either distribute a set number of tickets to homeowners to sell/distribute or just sell them for a flat price like they do for home tours.

chef504
chef504

Houston is afraid of anything they cannot control, and that means crowds of people. I have lived most of my life in New Orleans and have lived in Houston for the past three years, and I am always shocked to see how truly inexperienced this city and a lot of the citizens are at dealing with a god time without a cover charge. (Sorry Tinay, I felt it necessary to say where I have lived so readers can understand where I am coming from with my opinion). Lights in the Heights is a great time, and yes people in this city are desperate for some fun traditions to cling to. I can't blame them. Citizens should be happy about a Houston proud event, and just figure out how to make it enjoyable for all. I have lived in the Heights during the fest and enjoyed every minute. Houston has serious control issues. Can't people just have a good time on the streets with their community and enjoy the holiday with some spirits, and food?

rush limbaugh speaking chinese
rush limbaugh speaking chinese

Chef, I too live in the Heights. As noted below, smack-dab in the heart of LITH. Perhaps the problem is indeed the City / some authority who needs to exercise more control. Being said, LITH is on the verge of becoming complete chaos, no matter who is to blame. The problem, as always, are the bad apples, the number of which is increasing annually. There is no logical reason to open one's neighborhood to thousands of drunks without sufficient security and control. Or without some revenue model that actually benefits said neighborhood. We have neither as LITH now stands. Given the amount of property taxes we pay in the Heights, this event either needs to be curtailed, as is planned, or somehow restricted to residents and invited guests, which is likely impossible.

chef504
chef504

Property taxes. I own and now rent my condo in the French Quarter. You have not seen said property taxes till you own something in the French Quarter. That said I have never made a single dime just for living in the French Quarter. The city of New Orleans doesn't apologize to residents for; Mardi Gras, French Quarter Fest, Satchmo fest, Southern Decadence, Jazz fest, or just a Saturday night. I never had to live in the Quarter, but I knew what I was getting when I opted for the 70116 area code. I do not dispute the presence of Douche bags because they are a plenty anywhere that is fun. It's a shame that everyone can't just have fun without all the disrespect, but until everyone can it's the nature of the beast for choosing to have a cool area code. If you really want to do something get a few hundred folks from the Heights and go to the suburbs and other  Houston areas and throw a party. I am game.  Tromp in their yards. Get loud and drink throw trash all over the place. Park in their yard. I am going to bet that you like me just could not be that disrespectful and would just end up cleaning the mess up. I am personally trying to go to every house in the midwest to pee on random door steps. You would not imagine how many tourists have used my New Orleans stoop as a toilet.     

Tinay
Tinay

I will say Houston cares about the The Heights about as much as The Heights cares about Houston.  

The Heights used to be a welcoming (albeit scuzball) hood back in the day (early 90s, artits, artr cars, etc.).

Now it's just a wierd zone of Subaru driving transplants who think they invented the place.

SubaruDrivingYankeeTransplant
SubaruDrivingYankeeTransplant

 I am the Subaru-driving half of a DINK, Land-Cruiser-owning Heights transplant couple. We chose the Heights because we loved the attitude of the neighborhood, and couldn't turn down the chance to live in an overpriced cute little bungalow.  I couldn't even presume to "think I invented the place". I defer to my neighbors, who've been here since the 70's, and still refer to the remodeled bungalow down the street as "the place that used to be the crack house". They and their peers get the credit for making the neighborhood what it is today. They are welcoming to all, and love seeing new couples with kids on the block.

I've been here for 5 LITH, and was on the route for two of those. In those 5 years, the celebration has gone from "Wow, what a cool neighborhood party", to my husband yelling "What is this, Burning Man????" at the guy taking a leak in our side yard last year. It's gotten too big.

Overall, I think we'd all like it to continue, and "family friendly" is the way to go. Even though I don't have kids myself, I want the Heights to stay a place where children can play on the sidewalks and families can have a fun Christmas night every year. Otherwise, we wind up like the Washington area - lots of singles and transient couples who move away as soon as its time to start a family. Stability, a low-key attitude, and a good mix of all sorts of people are what make this neighborhood nice, and I'd hate to lose even a little of that in the interest of catering to the party crowd.

bibulb
bibulb

Well, ideally so, at least. 

'stina
'stina

Burning Man is a leave no trace event. 

Bonniwell
Bonniwell

This is a neighborhood. In the past, people have opened their yards and porches in good faith to complete strangers. Last year, too many took advantage and created an ugly situation that disrupted the community. Maybe it was too welcoming.

The Heights does not owe Houston an annual gross free for all.

Anse
Anse

I live in the Heights just north of where all this goes down. I don't understand why they have to have it right smack in the middle of the neighborhood when we have some nice neighborhood parks that would be great. I get why the neighbors would hate it, I wouldn't want all those people trekking through our yard either, but I hate to see the food trucks go, and booze, while it can be a problem, is an inevitable part of any good holiday festival. Why not move the thing to Stude Park? It's huge, it's a not going to bother many people but it's close enough for Heights residents to walk, and it's got some parking. I know the original concept would be lost but it's clear to me that lots of people would like to gather for a holiday event.

Joe
Joe

"I know the original concept would be lost".  Well, there's your answer.

Anse
Anse

It is true, but then again, the original concept has already been lost. I don't see why it should mean that we just give up on the idea of a holiday festival for the Heights.

Tinay
Tinay

Why does every press writer feel obliged to tell us where they live or used to live?

Wyatt
Wyatt

Seems sort of relevant here...

rush limbaugh speaking chinese
rush limbaugh speaking chinese

Richard, I live AT Ground Zero. This has to be done. It was only a matter of time until gunplay.

CMN
CMN

Who says gunplay?

Cookie6506
Cookie6506

Haven't you been in the Valero on Stude. lately ?  It's not patroned by only Heights residents.  Seen people fighting and yelling there (and using cell phones while pumping gas thank you very much) so only a matter of time.

kelliepoulos
kelliepoulos

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