IRVINE, Calif. — Some holiday events fell victim to the latest round of California's statewide stay-at-home orders. But some are still taking place, including a drive-thru experience at a place that grows produce. Tanaka Farms in Irvine is hosting its first festival of lights.
A lot of preparations have gone into getting it ready.
Strawberry shaped lights line a hillside just across the way from the farm’s strawberry fields. Eileen Sagara manages events at the farm and said it's a “Big deal for me because I just enjoy the end of the year.”
Sagara said this is when things typically slows down at the farm. But not this year. Tanaka Farms is doing something new. The name of the event is Hikari, a nod to this Japanese-owned family-run farm. “It means bright or light. So we thought it would be an appropriate name for the show," Sagara said.
Tanaka Farms' Hikari event is a festival of lights. It’s the first time the farm is putting on an event at night.
“We had a lot of hiccups along the way just trying to get ready because of the weather conditions,” said Sagara.
Windy days blew away some of the displays. But it was all hands on deck, and the farm, with the help of an outside company, was able bring the holiday lights destination to life.
Sagara said the event was actually planned before the pandemic.
“A lot of it was coincidence this year that we didn’t realize that there was such a need for somewhere for people to go and to do something,” Sagara said.
Tanaka Farms said the event can continue under this most recent statewide stay-at-home order because the farm is considered an essential business. That means the many people hired for this event, that goes through January 10, will be able to keep their jobs. Sagara said they had an overwhelming response to the farm’s help wanted ad, and hired several dozen people including some furloughed Disney employees.
“We’re very thankful to have them. And they’re just happy to be here," Sagara said.
The pandemic-friendly holiday event is a drive-thru experience, which includes a mile-long route along Candy Cane Road, strawberry fields with strawberry lights, deer hidden among the banana trees, snowflakes covering a hillside, a Christmas Tree Lane, and much more.
Stephanie Saunders said she really enjoyed bringing her family. “It is absolutely gorgeous. Especially with the pandemic, I mean this is the way to really celebrate Christmas right now,” Saunders said.
Saunders two children, Ian and Dean, were in the back seat of her car dressed in their Christmas pajamas. Both boys agreed on their favorite part of the drive.
“The big Christmas tree changing colors,” said Dean.
But before the drive officially ended for the Saunders, they had one more stop where they got so see a bearded man in a red suit.
Saunders and her boys yelled and clapped as they saw the final attraction, “Santa Claus! Wooo!"
It’s an experience Sagara said she plans to share with her family.
“I can’t wait to bring my granddaughter here!” she said.
The festival of lights at Tanaka Farms does require reservations. Prices range from $49 to $59 per vehicle.
Tanaka Farms also has a Christmas market at the farm that does sell Christmas trees and holiday related items.