If your Thanksgiving tradition includes hopping in the car to check out some Tacky Lights after the big meal, you’re in luck: Tacky Light grand illuminations on Thanksgiving are back this year.
Last year, most houses skipped a public lighting because of the coronavirus. But many are happy to return this year.
Al and Esther Thompson will flip the switch at their home at 9716 Wendhurst Drive in Glen Allen at 5:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving night. Pre-COVID, the annual event would typically draw roughly 200 people to the street in front of their house to bear witness to the 170,000 lights and 2,200-plus homemade decorations.
Last year, Thompson limited crowds in front of the house. He called the Tacky Lights season “a disappointment,” since he missed chatting with visitors and the human interaction that Tacky Lights brings.
This year, he said, “We are looking forward to seeing [our visitors’] smiles, hearing their laughter, answering their questions, receiving their thank yous and having conversations. For us, that is what this hobby of Christmas decorating is all about.”
The Phifers at 9604 and 9606 Asbury Court in western Henrico County will also be hosting a grand illumination on Thanksgiving night at 6 p.m.
Last year, the Phifers lit up only the trees on the property since they didn’t want to draw a crowd and potentially spread the coronavirus. The Phifers have been lighting up for over 40 years and sorely missed the joy and happiness Tacky Lights brings.
This year, Asbury Court is back for the Tacky Lights season in full, double-house, tacky-light display with over a million and half lights. This year will probably be the last for both houses on Asbury Court — 9604 and 9606 — to light up for the holidays. Next year, Bobby Phifer plans to sell his mother’s house at 9606 Asbury Court and will continue lighting up his house at 9604 Asbury for the holidays.
“It’s going to be tough, but it’s something we have to do,” Phifer said.
Mr. Christmas, also known as Frank Hudak, will also be lighting up his house at 2300 Wistar Court on Thanksgiving night at 5:30 p.m.
Hudak often dresses in an illuminated suit to greet visitors to his home, dubbed the Christmas House, which has 100,000 lights and over 100 illuminated figures. His display raises money for the Virginia Home for Boys and Girls and has raised $151,000 for the home over the years.
The home of John and Margaret Whitlock at 8720 River Road will also be turning on the lights on Thanksgiving for their popular drive-thru display with over 250,000 lights. They have been decorating for over 20 years and people love to drive through their driveway to see the display.
Last year broke all records for traffic and attendance to the display, owner John Whitlock said. Whether that was related to the coronavirus or not, he couldn’t say. But he did say, “We are looking forward to another fun year as we have added a number of new things this year.”
Want more Tacky Lights? Check back next week when we will publish the full Tacky Lights list of homes lighting up the area with displays of more than 40,000 lights. The Richmond Times-Dispatch has been compiling the definitive Tacky Lights tour list for over 30 years.
Is there a house you think should make the Tacky Lights list? Go to richmond.com/holiday/tacky-lights/ and click on the link to nominate a house for the RTD Tacky Lights List.
In Nation & World | Millions of Americans take to the sky and road for holiday | Page A16
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BRUNSWICK, Ga. — Jurors on Wednesday convicted the three white men charged in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, the Black man who was chased and fatally shot while running through their neighborhood in an attack that became part of the larger national reckoning on racial injustice.
The jury deliberated for about 10 hours before convicting Greg McMichael, son Travis McMichael and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, who all face minimum sentences of life in prison. It is up to the judge to decide whether that comes with or without the possibility of parole.
Travis McMichael stood for the verdict, his lawyer’s arm around his shoulder. At one point, McMichael lowered his head to his chest. After the verdicts were read, as he stood to leave, he mouthed “love you” to his mother, who was in the courtroom.
Greg McMichael hung his head when the judge read his first guilty verdict. Robbie Bryan bit his lip.
Moments after the verdicts were announced, Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr., was seen crying and hugging supporters outside the courtroom.
“He didn’t do nothing,” the father said, “but run and dream.”
Ben Crump, attorney for Arbery’s father, spoke outside the courthouse, saying repeatedly that “the spirit of Ahmaud defeated the lynch mob.”
Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, thanked the crowd gathered for the verdict and said she did not think she would see this day.
“It’s been a long fight. It’s been a hard fight. But God is good,” she said. Of her son, she said, “He will now rest in peace.”
The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup truck to pursue the 25-year-old after seeing him running outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick in February 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.
The father and son told police they suspected Arbery was a fleeing burglar. But the prosecution argued that the men provoked the fatal confrontation and that there was no evidence Arbery had committed crimes in the neighborhood.
“We commend the courage and bravery of this jury to say that what happened on Feb. 23, 2020, to Ahmaud Arbery — the hunting and killing of Ahmaud Arbery — it was not only morally wrong but legally wrong, and we are thankful for that,” said Latonia Hines, Cobb County executive assistant district attorney.
Prosecutor Linda Dunikoski added: “The jury system works in this country, and when you present the truth to people and they see it, they will do the right thing.”
Travis McMichaels’ attorneys said both defendants feel that they did the right thing, and that they believed the video would help their case. But they also said the McMichaels regret that Arbery got killed.
“I can tell you honestly, these men are sorry for what happened to Ahmaud Arbery,” attorney Jason Sheffield said. “They are sorry he’s dead. They are sorry for the tragedy that happened because of the choices they made to go out there and try to stop him.”
They planned to appeal.
Bryan’s attorney, Kevin Gough, said his team was “disappointed with the verdict, but we respect it.” He planned to file new legal motions after Thanksgiving.
Superior Court Judge Timothy Walmsley did not immediately schedule a sentencing date, saying that he wanted to give both sides time to prepare.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said Arbery’s killing was a “devastating reminder” of how much more work the country has to do in the fight for racial justice.
“While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough. Instead, we must recommit ourselves to building a future of unity and shared strength, where no one fears violence because of the color of their skin,” Biden said.
Though prosecutors did not argue that racism motivated the killing, federal authorities have charged them with hate crimes, alleging that they chased and killed Arbery because he was Black. That case is scheduled to go to trial in February.
The disproportionately white jury received the case around midday Tuesday.
Soon after returning to court Wednesday morning, the jury sent a note to the judge asking to view two versions of the shooting video — the original and one that investigators enhanced to reduce shadows — three times apiece.
Jurors returned to the courtroom to see the videos and listen again the 911 call one of the defendants made from the bed of a pickup truck about 30 seconds before the shooting.
On the 911 call the jury reviewed, Greg McMichael tells an operator: “I’m out here in Satilla Shores. There’s a Black male running down the street.”
He then starts shouting, apparently as Arbery is running toward the McMichael’s idling truck with Bryan’s truck coming up behind him: “Stop right there! Damn it, stop! Travis!” Gunshots can be heard a few second later.
The graphic video death leaked online two months later, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation took over the case, quickly arresting the three men. Each of them is charged with murder and other crimes.
Defense attorneys contend the McMichaels were attempting a legal citizen’s arrest when they set off after Arbery, seeking to detain and question him as a suspected burglar after he was seen running from a nearby home under construction.
Travis McMichael testified that he shot Arbery in self-defense, saying the running man turned and attacked with his fists while running past the idling truck where Travis McMichael stood with his shotgun.
Prosecutors said there was no evidence Arbery had committed crimes in the defendants’ neighborhood. He had enrolled at a technical college and was preparing to study to become an electrician like his uncles.
Shaun Seals, a 32-year-old lifelong Brunswick resident, rushed to the courthouse to join the crowd cheering the verdict.
“We just came out to witness history,” said Seals, pushing his 10-month-old daughter in a stroller.
Seals, who is Black, called the convictions a victory not just for his community but for the nation.
“It’s not going to heal most of the wounds” from a long history of inequality, he said. “But it’s a start and shows people are trying.”
When Rebecca Biers asks her patients if they are struggling to access food, many say yes.
Biers, a Virginia Commonwealth University Health Enhanced Care Management medical outreach worker, then asks if they need food that same day. If they again answer yes, Biers is able to provide them with food boxes through a partnership with Feed More, a central Virginia hunger-relief organization.
The patients, many of whom are in the mid-sixties or older, leave the VCU clinic with a box of rice, dried beans, cereal, oatmeal, tuna, canned vegetables and canned fruit.
“Unfortunately, food is one of the last things a lot of people think about, especially if they have children,” Biers said. “They are trying to make sure they have shelter, keep the electricity on. And as important as food is, I feel like it’s the last that people think about.”
Two years ago Feeding America, a domestic hunger-relief organization, launched the Food is Medicine program to assist those who are facing hunger. The program, held at various Feed America member food banks, screens children and adults through a series of questions to see if they need to be referred to a hunger hotline, receive a box of food on the spot or both.
Feed More and the VCU Health System teamed up two years ago to participate in the Food is Medicine program.
When asking questions, Biers makes the environment relaxing so the patient is comfortable to share their story. For some people, asking for help is difficult or uncomfortable, Biers said.
Sydney Orgel, a Feed More client resource coordinator who oversees the Food is Medicine program, connects patients to ongoing food resources through the Hunger Hotline.
“The big part of this whole partnership [with VCU] is addressing the root causes of diet-related diseases and making that connection of food insecurity and health,” Orgel said.
The Anthem Foundation, part of the Anthem, Inc. health care company, gave a million-dollar grant to Feeding America in 2019. In October, Anthem gave another million-dollar grant to Feed More to help fund its partnership with VCU.
The October funding will help add three adult outpatient clinics and four pediatric clinics within VCU. There are currently 10 clinics through the Feed More and VCU partnership, Orgel said.
During the inaugural year, at four VCU Health outpatient clinics, 41% of patients were food insecure, with 82% of those receiving a food box on the spot, according to Feed More.
Between May 2021 and January 2022, Feed More set a goal to screen 1,000 patients. In late October, Feed More had surpassed that goal by screening nearly 1,900 patients, Orgel said.
A result of the partnership is Feed More’s ability to reach the Richmond region’s Latino community. The program has seen an influx of Spanish-speaking clients, which Orgel said “sparked” the creation of a Spanish hunger hotline.
While still in development, Orgel said a realization occurred that more supports were necessary to help the Latino community.
For Biers, she helps many patients navigate transportation struggles.
“They might have all the money in the world to find food, but if they don’t have transportation to get there or they have to take five buses to get to a grocery store, we have to address that problem to make sure somebody is eating,” Biers said.
Biers connects patients to community nonprofits or helps find them a form of transportation to travel to and from a grocery store.
“We’re not just focusing on the one need, we are focusing on the patient as a whole,” Biers said. “Food might be the hardest thing.”