"Casa del Pomba -- the name of my home -- means 'house of the dove.' The dove is the symbol of hope, and our hope is that COVID-19 goes away," Deacon Dave Rezendes told the Weekly in an interview about his decision to call off his annual holiday light display as a result of the pandemic.
For the past 37 years, Rezendes has opened the front yard of his Livermore residence on Hillcrest Avenue to the community to view thousands of vibrant lights and festive decor during the month of December. This year, however, he decided it would not be in the best interests of his volunteers or visitors to host the local tradition.
"This would have been the 38th anniversary of the display, and we would have started building, as we do every year, in late August and the display theme changes every year," he said, adding that the theme is always kept secret until opening night but he won't reveal what it would have been this year as they may decide to use it in the future.
Before cancellation, opening night for the Deacon Dave's display was set for this Friday, which also coincides with the 38th anniversary of Rezendes' ordination as a Roman Catholic deacon.
He first announced that there would be no display on his website in August, following a series of meetings with his team members. He said they considered other options as a group like a drive-by display or curbside viewing outside of the front gates of his residence. Ultimately, none of the alternatives were ideal to keep large groups from gathering.
"The issue comes back to, we would have had thousands of people walking up and no crowd control because a lot of our more senior team members didn't want to risk getting (COVID-19)," Rezendes told the Weekly.
He started the display nearly 40 years ago as a gift to the Tri-Valley. "It started very small with a whopping 2,000 lights," he said sarcastically, adding that it has grown significantly since then with last year's count at more than 600,000 lights.
"I was so heartbroken when I heard that he wouldn't be able to do it this year," said Monique Vi, 28, who grew up going to see the Deacon Dave's display with her family every year. She said she's continued the annual tradition with her now 6-year-old daughter, "It's definitely something we look forward to."
In addition to the 4-foot-by-8-foot banner framed by garland and a string of white lights outside of his home announcing that the walk-through is canceled, Rezendes said he plans to add more lights around the outside of his home but will keep it subtle to avoid drawing big groups of people.
One aspect of the Deacon Dave's tradition that will continue for those who live close to Casa del Pomba is the playing of chimes from the bell tower of Rezendes' private backyard chapel. In previous years, a Christmas tune would sound at 7 p.m. each night during the holiday display and this year music will play three times throughout each evening at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. beginning this Friday.
More information and photos from past years of the display are available here.