The light side of the holidays

‘There’s nothing like it around here’


Herald Writer

MONROE — Renato Lubrin believes in lighting up the season.

So much so that he’s spent much of the past month stringing strands of lights on trees, bushes and buildings across 50 acres of the Evergreen State Fairgrounds.

And it’s all being done in the name of community spirit.

"It’s just a beautiful thing," Lubrin said of the Evergreen Light Festival. "There’s nothing like it around here."

Lubrin, now retired, worked as a maintenance person at the fairgrounds for 20 years. He knows every inch of the grounds and where every electrical connection is.

"All the time I was working here, when I was setting up for the fair and other events, I kept thinking about how this place would look so beautiful all lit up for the holidays," he said. "But there was never any time to do that.

"So after I retired, I told myself that I was just going to do it."

The first lights festival was in 1998 and included 1 million lights. Each year since then, the number of lights has increased.

"But we don’t really know how many we have now, because we stopped counting at a million," he said.

With a bit of volunteer help and a large crane, Lubrin began hanging the lights for this year’s event nearly a month ago. He said it takes about six weeks to get everything ready.

He has purchased all the lights himself and pays the electrical bill for the event. He is allowed to use the fairgrounds through an agreement with Snohomish County because the event is non-denominational and has no religious ties.

"This is really pretty unique," he said. "There are other light exhibits around. But none this big and none that are done as a celebration of winter and the holiday season in a way that welcomes everyone."

This year, Lubrin will add a 30-foot-long "Season’s Greetings" in lights to welcome visitors. Most every tree is decorated with lights, even those that are 50 to 60 feet tall.

"Once we get done, you can see the lights as far off as the Diamond M farms, west on Highway 2," he said. "In fact, I’ve seen some unfortunate accidents on the highway because drivers were rubbernecking to see the lights and rear-ended the cars in front of them."

While he doesn’t want that, he does want as many visitors as possible.

"The grounds are open to anyone, and you can walk around on your own, or you can be escorted," he said. "We have trolley rides and horse and buggy rides that leave from the tunnel entrances to the grounds."

Inside the grounds, there are choices of what to do, including viewing the lights, shopping at a crafts and gift show, listening to carolers, or visiting with Santa. Holiday goodies from soup to hot cider are served.

Admission fee proceeds from the event are given to local charities after the bills are paid. In past years, Lubrin has helped the local Boys &amp Girls Clubs, school PTAs, Scout troops and 4H clubs. School groups and seniors also are given special discounts.

Although Lubrin creates the light festival just to spread holiday cheer, he considers the season very special to him.

"I grew up on the (Philippines) islands," he said. "We were Catholic and Christmas was a very special time for us.

"All of my favorite holiday memories come back to mind when I see all the lights hung, and the smiles on the faces of those who are looking at them."

You can call Herald Writer Leslie Moriarty at 425-339-3436

or send e-mail to

Talk to us

More in Local News

Marysville firefighters respond to a 12-year-old boy who fell down a well Tuesday May 30, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Photo provided by Marysville Fire District)
Marysville firefighters save boy who fell 20 feet into well

The 12-year-old child held himself up by grabbing on to a plastic pipe while firefighters worked to save him.

Highway 9 is set to be closed in both directions for a week as construction crews build a roundabout at the intersection with Vernon Road. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
Weeklong closure coming to Highway 9 section in Lake Stevens

Travelers should expect delays or find another way from Friday to Thursday between Highway 204 and Lundeen Parkway.

Students arriving off the bus get in line to score some waffles during a free pancake and waffle breakfast at Lowell Elementary School on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
800 free pancakes at Everett’s Lowell Elementary feed the masses

The annual breakfast was started to connect the community and the school, as well as to get people to interact.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks at the groundbreaking event for the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$123M project starting on Highway 529 interchange, I-5 HOV lane

A reader wondered why the highway had a lane closure despite not seeing work done. Crews were waiting on the weather.

Justin Bell was convicted earlier this month of first-degree assault for a December 2017 shooting outside a Value Village in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Court: Snohomish County jurors’ opaque masks didn’t taint verdict

During the pandemic, Justin Bell, 32, went on trial for a shooting. Bell claims his right to an impartial jury was violated.

Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

Will Steffener
Inslee appoints Steffener as Superior Court judge

Attorney Will Steffener will replace Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis, who is retiring in June.

News logo for use with stories about Mill Creek in Snohomish County, WA.
Police: Mill Creek man fatally stabbed wife amid financial woes

After quitting his job at Amazon, the man amassed about $50,000 in debt, triggering a discussion about finances, he told police.

Outside of the current Evergreen Recovery Centers' housing to treat opioid-dependent moms with their kids on Thursday, May 25, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$8M in behavioral health grants to benefit children, youth, families

Snohomish County awarded one-time federal funding to five projects that will reach at least 440 new people each year.

Most Read