An illuminating tour

RVTD bus tour shows the holiday spirit is alive and well, draped and dangling from Rogue Valley homes
Kerrisdale Ridge Drive, which is transformed every year into Candy Cane Lane, is one of the stops on RVTD's annual bus tour of holiday light displays.Bob Pennell

If Jude Whalen had his way, he'd take the bus every day.

Because bus rides are the 2-year-old's special treat, mom Jean Whalen makes sure they climb aboard on the one day each year when "Santa's lights" are on the route.

Where the lights are

Looking for some great Christmas light displays around the Rogue Valley? Check out our list of spots below:

  • 248 N. Barneburg Road, Medford — This house on the corner of Jackson Street and Barneburg Road has lots of lights, animation and holiday inflatables.
  • 1384 Brook Court, Medford — About 20,000 lights dance to music, with inflatables and animated yard characters, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. nightly.
  • "Candy Cane Lane," Kerrisdale Ridge Drive, Medford — More than 35 homes are decorated with red and white lights and lots of candy canes. Donations of nonperishable food items and toys may be made along the street from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. today to support St. Vincent de Paul and Toys for Tots. Caroling will be from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 20, at 2690 Kerrisdale Ridge Drive.
  • 3511 Cherry Lane, Medford — A holiday toy drive.
  • 3537 Cherry Lane, Medford — This court of large homes always has a great holiday light display. At least one home is computerized with thousands of lights set to music.
  • 511 Cypress Ave., Rogue River — Viewers can tune their radios to 94.1 FM to hear the music that goes with 8,000 coordinated lights at this home on the hill at the end of a cul-de-sac. The lights are on from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday through Dec. 31.
  • 443 N. DeAnjou Ave., Eagle Point — 15,000 lights set to music.
  • 838 Ellen Ave., Medford — Lights coordinated to music on 95.3 FM.
  • Eucalyptus Drive and Foothill Road, Medford — Lights with music playing on speakers outside the home.
  • Grand and Covina avenues, Medford — Lots of lights and decorations for the holidays for more than 20 years.
  • Greystone Court, Medford — This block of large homes is known for its annual display of lights, most of them white. A food drive for ACCESS Inc. will start Monday, Dec. 20.
  • Happy Valley and South Stage roads, Medford — Lights set to music on a radio station that can be tuned inside vehicles.
  • 2999 Hawaiian Ave., Medford — 12,000 lights with 8,000 set to music, holiday inflatables and LED Christmas trees and decorations.
  • 2217 Hillcrest Road, Medford — Many lights and inflatable Christmas decorations.
  • Horton Plaza, 1122 Spring St., Medford — White icicle lights on all three floors and balconies; about 15,000 to 20,000 lights on the building and shrubs.
  • 2153 Houston Road, Phoenix — Lots of activity and music.
  • 2127 Jackson St., Medford — Ron Bartlett's annual display includes a Santa, penguins and other holiday characters that move and sing at the push of a button.
  • 2502-2514 N. Keene Way Drive, Medford — Two houses combine lights, deer, a palm tree and nativity inflatables to make a fun scene. Santa will hand out candy canes the weekend before Christmas. Donations of canned food will be accepted for ACCESS.
  • 2833 La Mirada Drive, Medford — A nice display, not big and bright enough to be seen by satellite, but it conveys the holiday spirit.
  • 1714 E. Main St., Medford — A musical show with 20,000 lights and Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy and Linus will run every 30 minutes from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.
  • 391 Mill Creek Drive, Prospect — The Prospect Historic Hotel is all decked out, including its covered wagon.
  • 716 S. Peach St, Medford — Bordered lawns, lots of deer and Santa and Mrs. Claus on the front porch.
  • Samuel Lane, Phoenix — Many homes in this neighborhood are decorated.
  • 775 St. Andrews Circle, Ashland — LED lights showcase the U.S. flag, Ashland Grizzly Paw, Remembering Troops Ribbon and an Oregon Ducks banner.
  • 1150 S. Stage Road, Medford — 40,000 lights set to an eclectic mix of popular holiday songs will run from dusk to 10 p.m. through Jan. 1. Santa will give away candy canes from 7 to 8 p.m. Sunday through Saturday, Dec. 18-24. Donations for South Medford High School Sparrow Marco Alvarez and the Jackson County Animal Shelter will be accepted.
  • 4667 Torrey Pines Drive, Medford — Thousands of lights dance to 40 different Christmas songs.

"I think it's just a really fun way to get in the holiday spirit," says Whalen, 40.

The Whalens of Ashland were among more than 90 people Friday who viewed some of East Medford's most beloved displays of holiday lights from the seats of three Rogue Valley Transportation District buses. The tour has been an RVTD tradition since 2005, when senior planner Paige Townsend traced the buses' route using the newspaper's online interactive map of holiday lights in the valley.

"I just remember as a kid always driving around with my parents the week before Christmas," says Townsend. "I thought, wouldn't it be nice if we could do the driving ... let people enjoy the holiday season a little bit more."

The city of Medford joined the effort, promoting the tour in its recreation guide. RVTD provides the buses at its own cost, while the city charges a $3 registration fee per person and provides the pickup and drop-off point at west Medford's Santo Community Center.

"It's been getting booked every year," says Townsend. "Usually, we see entire families."

Like most tour participants, Melanie Schorsch isn't a regular RVTD rider, but she is a connoisseur of local holiday-lights displays.

When she saw an announcement for RVTD's event last year, she added it to her itinerary that includes several nights in December of driving around Medford, Central Point and Eagle Point with friends.

"This is a big thing to me," says the 51-year-old Medford native. "The displays have gotten a lot better."

Among her favorites are some of the more unusual, seasonal shows featured in the newspaper over the years, such as retired Hedrick Middle School band teacher Ron Bartlett, who greets visitors to his East Jackson Street home with a saxophone serenade while wearing a Santa Claus suit.

"He's really personable," says Schorsch.

She also lauds the "elf-man" house on Medford's Bristol Drive, saying that she could visit four or five times and still marvel at the figurines handmade by Don Schmidt.

"You can't even see a blade of grass in his yard," says Schorsch.

RVTD can't feature all the city's highlights on its hour-long tour but tries to give riders the most glitz per glance.

"Greystone Court and then the Candy Cane Lane," says Townsend. "We always drive through those areas."

The program also adds a bit of education to its Christmas cheer, giving RVTD one more opportunity to reach out to residents who have no experience with the bus.

"It's clean ... it's modern," says Townsend, explaining that 16 buses in RVTD's fleet of 23 run on compressed natural gas. The buses provides more than a million trips per year — 4,500 per day — between Medford, Jacksonville, Central Point, White City, Eagle Point, Phoenix, Talent, Ashland and the airport.

"We just do a really quick 101," says Townsend.

Jude Whalen needs no encouragement to climb into a seat by himself and relish the ride. His mom says she also gets to enjoy the light show when she's not the one driving.

"He sat by that huge window," says Jean Whalen. "It's just the perfect view."

Reach reporter Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email slemon@mailtribune.com.



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