As the sun set on a chilly December evening, Chris Jones went through his nightly routine. He blew leaves off his driveway in southeast Fort Worth’s Echo Heights neighborhood. Six p.m. was approaching, and Jones was ready to light up the community for the third year in a row.
A few minutes later, his wife Heather flipped on the Christmas lights that turn their family home into a drive-through winter wonderland.
One by one, each section of the circular driveway came alive. Christmas tunes played from a Pandora station Jones created to sync up with car radios. A massive glowing archway greeted visitors in their pickup trucks and vans.
People from across Tarrant County roll through this small corner of Fort Worth each year, all hoping for a piece of holiday magic at 5316 Parker Henderson Road.
“I want you to be able to, for five or 10 minutes, completely escape everything that you’re worried about,” Jones, an information technology professional, said. “Not everybody has a great Christmas. So if they can come here and get away from it for 10 minutes, then that’s 10 minutes better for them.”
Since 2019, Jones has welcomed families to tour his holiday light display free of charge. The nightly event, lasting from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., kicks off the day after Thanksgiving and concludes in early January. This season, the lights will flip on for the last time on Jan. 7, when Jones hosts his extended family for Christmas.
His daughter, Bek Jones, said the family spends opening night flagging down passing cars to tell them about the display and hand out goodie bags to kids.
“He likes seeing the joy light up on their faces,” she said.
So far, Jones and his family have counted more than 800 cars pulling through the parade of lights. Without any advertising or media coverage, Jones said, his display has become a local attraction purely through word of mouth.
If you go
What: Holiday lights display in Echo Heights
Time: 6-9 p.m.
Date: Every evening between now and Jan. 7
Location: 5316 Parker Henderson Road
Fort Worth, TX 76119
Tickets: Free to drive through
The tradition began when the family lived in Euless, Heather Jones said, and since then the family has attended several conferences and workshops dedicated to the craft of Christmas lights.
Their commitment to Christmas cheer extends to their choice in real estate. The couple purchased the property behind Prairie Dog Park in 2018 for the express purpose of expanding their holiday light show, Heather Jones said.
“It was a contest of who could get to the mortgage company faster, because there were two people vying for this property,” she said. “My husband jumped in the truck, sped to Fort Worth and said: ‘Here’s the money.’”
Chris Jones’ passion for designing and executing a light display comes out of a rough childhood, where Christmas Day could end with a pile of presents smashed by his stepfather, Jones said.
Then, his family would visit his grandmother’s house. Her home was a safe haven, surrounded by neighbors hanging up lights and celebrating Christmas traditions together.
“Getting to see Christmas lights gave me that little bit of hope that not everybody was going through what we were, and so now I hope that every bit of this does the same for somebody else,” he said. “I’ll never know. But that’s what sparked all of this.”
Now, his grandmother Pat lives with the family and helped with the display this year. Forty years ago, she created many of the structures that stand in the yard today, including an angel hanging in a tree.
“Chris has redone (the display), but he did it just like I did it,” she said. “I’m very proud of him. I’m amazed. Let’s put it that way – I’m amazed.”
Jones has also enjoyed community support for the display, including a sign donation from a Bedford business and help from his auto body shop neighbor to raise a Christmas star higher into the sky next year.
With the exception of an annual picnic in Prairie Dog Park, Echo Heights doesn’t have enough community events to bring people together, Jones said. Over the last few decades, the southeast neighborhood has struggled with the impact of industrial development and health concerns stemming from air pollution, according to previous Fort Worth Report coverage.
Jones, who stood with neighbors to oppose an application to rezone a nearby agricultural property to light industrial, has ambitions to host a hot cocoa night for neighbors. The community deserves it, he said.
“This neighborhood is trying to fight back. They’ve just been pushed down so hard, and that’s part of why I got involved,” Jones said. “We were already doing this, and it’s just made it more (important). They’re wanting to build the community back.”