David Moye | Downtown News
One of San Diego’s most beloved holiday traditions is celebrating its 47th year: The “Mister A’s Holiday Display” high atop the Mister A’s building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Laurel Street.
On clear nights, the lights can be seen all the way down to Tijuana, as far north as La Jolla and even over in Point Loma — which is what the display’s creator, original building owner John Alessio, intended – according to his son, Bud Alessio, the current owner.
“There wasn’t much up here in Uptown back in 1965,” Alessio said. “So it made us stand out even more.”
The senior Alessio created the display as sort of a beacon for the area’s children. And every Thanksgiving night since 1965 the lights have gone on – often covered live on local news – and are taken down a week after New Year’s Day, like clockwork.
Getting the lights ready isn’t a simple task, Alessio said.
“We had one man start putting up the lights four weeks ago,” he said. “For the last three months, 90 percent of his job was checking out the lights, making sure they worked.”
Don’t ask how many lights were checked or how many are on the building. Alessio has lost count.
“That’s the question I’m always asked, but they’ve been changed so many times and I’ll sometimes say, ‘Add another strand there,’ but I can’t tell you how many,” he said.
The lights themselves have changed, too. For eight years after the 9/11 attacks, the displays featured a red, white and blue motif, but the last three years returned to the traditional.
Also, slowly but surely, older lights have been replaced with more energy-efficient LED lights.
“They should be all LED by next year, I think” Alessio said.
The holiday lights are probably best appreciated outside the building, but Bertrand Hug, who runs the rooftop restaurant, Bertrand At Mister A’s, said the view is just as amazing from the restaurant’s deck.
“When there’s a slight amount of fog, the lights make an imprint in the sky, almost like a collage,” he said. “It’s an amazing thing, this beacon in the city and I feel like I’m the beneficiary of this great traditon.”
San Diego native David Moye writes Weird News for the Huffington Post. You can learn more about him at huffingtonpost.com/David-Moye.