The Desert Plateau Luminaria is back to its full spectacular display in 2019 and you can catch it from 6:00-10:00 p.m. on Saturday December 14th.

Come witness the scale of the transformation in West Pasco neighborhoods from Burden Blvd. to Argent and from Road 36 to Yuma Dr.

You are asked to not park on the streets, but parking is available at McGee Elementary School and along the school side of Horizon Drive. Hundreds of homes are decorated with the holiday spirit with each of 5 quadrants having a “best decorated home” sign in their yard. Candles are lit at 6:00pm and glow for several hours, going out around 10:30-11pm depending upon the weather.

For the 5th year, organizers are pleased to once again support the project Fill the Bus during the Luminaria. The bus will be parked at McGee Elementary school on Horizon Drive on the night of Luminaria to accept donations of non-perishable food items to “fill the bus”, with all donations going to our local 2nd Harvest Food Bank.

Everyone please drive slowly, bring your non-perishable food items to share, relax and enjoy the captivating spectacle.  To find more information go to the Facebook page.

Read on for more about the history of the 33rd Annual Desert Plateau Luminaria.

Special Guest Contributor to Town Square Media--

By Mike Berriochoa

The Desert Plateau Luminaria has been a Tri-Cities tradition since 1987. This enduring holiday event remains built around the simple concept of a small candle giving off a warm glow inside a white paper bag… multiplied more than 25,000 times.

Luminarias are popular in many communities around the country and the idea of doing something like that here at home was often discussed at neighborhood gatherings in what was then Pasco’s newest housing development, but not until Joce Berriochoa and a few willing neighbors decided to make it happen did the idea turn into a reality. “We were all young families in those days, working for a living, still getting to know each other, and wanting to make our neighborhood a special place,” Berriochoa said.

Liz Gossett had seen a neighborhood luminaria during a Christmas visit to her brother in Texas in 1986. When she returned she discussed it with Joce who loved the idea and saw no reason it couldn’t happen here. It didn’t take long for Joce and Liz to become the driving force that made it happen. Joce went to City Hall to get the plat maps of the area and divided Desert Plateau into sections that would be easy to organize. She calculated the number of candles and bags that would be needed, set up a network of “block captains” to help organize the area and Liz contacted wholesalers to find the best source of bags and candles at an affordable price. She then served as a teacher and coach, showing the block captains how she had seen it done. Block captains then took on the responsibility of distributing the bags and candles and, just as importantly, collecting money from each homeowner to cover the cost.

Block captain meetings became a regular occurrence at the Berriochoa house during December as they discussed the details of what would become this annual event. Over the years block captains came and went as work schedules changed, jobs changed, or people moved on. The standing joke was always that you became a block captain for life and could only leave if you found your replacement. And most block captains took this seriously, finding replacements before they stepped away.

It didn’t take long for homeowners to get into the spirit of the event. In the early years the luminaria was bounded by Road 44 on the east and Hilltop on the north, with participation at nearly 100%.

On the day of the event homeowners would spend a few hours putting sand in the bottom of the bags and placing them along the street in front of their homes. Then, at a set time after dark, homeowners emerged from their homes to light the candles, transforming the neighborhood into a wondrous and special place. There was nothing like it anywhere in the Tri-Cities and soon it became known throughout the area.

Desert Plateau Neighborhood Luminaria
Desert Plateau Neighborhood Luminaria

There was always someone who wasn’t going to be home and there were also a few vacant lots that needed to be covered, and fortunately very few who adamantly did not want to participate. But not to worry, nearby neighbors weren’t about to allow gaps to spoil the evening. They pitched in to share the additional load of setting out the bags to make sure the entire development was covered.

Once the candles were lit, neighbors started strolling the neighborhood to see just what a wondrous spectacle they had created. The next thing you know, with so many neighbors out and about, they began to get acquainted with each other, garage parties started popping up, friends were meeting friends and from it came a strong neighborhood bond and a real pride in the area that is still felt today.

Originally the luminaria was held on the day of the winter solstice. But because the solstice often occurred mid-week and was so close to Christmas, and so many residents were young families working for a living, it became more and more difficult to for them to get home after work, feed their families, and get the bags out in a reasonable amount of time. Eventually the block captains voted that it was time to move the luminaria to an earlier weekend to reduce stress and give homeowners more time to prepare.

The luminaria put Desert Plateau on the Tri-Cities map in a big way. People from throughout the Tri-Cities started driving to Pasco to visit the neighborhood on luminaria night… a neighborhood most had never seen before. Ben Franklin Transit started running busses through the neighborhood as did many organizations. Party goers in limousines started showing up and trucks pulling hay wagons became a common sight, with revelers on hay bales singing Christmas carols. Local television stations started doing live broadcasts from the neighborhood during their evening news programs, and the luminaria schedule was being published in the Tri-City Herald, complete with photos and interviews when the mountain of candles and bags arrived at the Berriochoa house.

Before long, other neighborhoods in the area asked to get involved and the luminaria was expanded to homes north of Hilltop Dr, east of Road 44 and even down into the houses at the Sun Willows golf course for a time. Throughout its history the luminaria has been through a lot. There has been rain so hard and snow so heavy that it would put the candles out. One year it was so cold that propane lighters were difficult to light. On more than one occasion there has been enough wind to bend the bags over far enough to catch them on fire from the candles.

But no matter the obstacles, residents of Desert Plateau have continued the luminaria tradition. What started with a few thousand candles and bags in 1987 has grown to well over 25,000 candles and bags today. Leadership has changed several times since it was started but the luminaria remains an important part of the holiday tradition of the Desert Plateau neighborhood, the City of Pasco and the Tri-Cities.

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