HENRICO, Va (WRIC) — Nearly half a century after Bobby Phifer first hung lights around the front door of his West End childhood home, a pandemic setback partially prompted his family to make the difficult decision to sell it.
Since the 70s, Phifer’s display has grown in size and popularity, garnering over one million lights and taking the national crown in ABC’s ‘Great Holiday Light Fight’ television special in 2017.
The family tradition has, too, become an annual holiday to-do item for Central Virginians, and will likely forever change once one of the two-family homes is sold.
“I caught COVID, and was out of work for a while, so I’m behind in my mortgage, period,” Phifer told 8News Thursday. “The only thing I can do to save my house is [to] sell our house next door.”
Phifer bought the neighboring Asbury Court home after his father died in 2004. He moved in and quickly included the property into his ornamental “hobby,” as he called it.
“We came every Christmas, you know it’s a big deal getting in the car, get geared up — hot chocolate and everything to go see the lights,” said Rilee Harman, a young father of two carrying his childhood tradition on.
Phifer’s daughter, Katelyn Phifer, expressed a personal loss, thinking about the holidays beyond 2021.
“It’s all I know, so just losing that it’s gonna kill me. It’s gonna be really strange without it,” she said.
Though they’ll continue stringing up lights, laying lawn ornaments, spinning a Santa-tracking satellite and switching on dozens of circuit breakers, the community will continue to feel merry and bright when visiting on future holiday nights.
“You can’t keep somebody else’s legacy going forward,” said Jack Martin of Goochland about the potential new homeownership of 9606 Asbury. “You know, if I bought it and live next door, sure, I’d try and help out.”
“Whoever buys that house, if they don’t put something in that yard or something, they’re gonna be the Scrooge,” Bobby Phifer said.