It started with simple strings of Christmas lights on the side of a few houses. But the holiday decorations on Fremont and Poplar avenues have flourished into full-blown displays similar to a colorful and ornate Disney holiday spectacular. As the years pass, the decorations — and the neighbor rivalry — continue to grow.
When Gilbert Armenta moved to his home on Fremont with his family, he relished the opportunity to put Christmas decorations on the front porch without any restrictions. “We used to live in an apartment, so we only had so much space to hang our decorations,” Armenta said.
Armenta's display this year features a miniature train painted in candy cane colors stretching from one end of the front yard to the other. Single-engine planes hover in the air as cartoon characters dance to Christmas music.
And the 68-year-old manages to add something new every year. With the help of his grandson David Villalobos, Armenta installed a blimp and a hot air balloon this year that inflate a couple of feet off the edge of his rooftop.
Armenta's displays aren't the only lights on the block. Gary Taylor has been Armenta’s neighbor for 15 years, and his decorations are also hard to miss. A life-sized reindeer sleigh, handmade by Taylor himself, is parked in front of the house. A Christmas-themed canoe and a Ferris wheel with toy riders sit on the grassy area, surrounded by giant candy canes and multicolored lights. And if you don’t blink twice, you’d almost think the real Santa was climbing on the chimney.
Taylor and his wife Sandy feel their decorations and holiday cheer bring joy and laughter to the community. On special occasions, the couple will even dress up as Mr. and Mrs. Claus and give out candy on their front porch to passersby.
The displays on Fremont and Poplar have become some of the top holiday decorations in Alhambra, with spectators coming back each Christmas to see what the Taylors and Armentas have added. “It’s something we come and see every year,” said passerby Gloria Raya. “It’s beautiful.”
As for the rivalry, Armenta and Taylor said they’re just happy to decorate their houses every year and see what surprises each has for the other.