By David Moye | SDUN Reporter
One of San Diego’s most beloved holiday traditions is celebrating its 47th year: the “Mister A’s Holiday Display” high atop the Mr. A’s building on Fifth Avenue and Laurel Street in Bankers Hill.
On clear nights, the lights can be seen all the way down to Tijuana, Mexico, as far north as La Jolla and even over in Point Loma, which is exactly what the display’s creator, original building owner John Alessio, intended, his son Bud Alessio said.
“There wasn’t much up here in Uptown back in 1965,” Bud Alessio said, who is now the building’s current owner. “So it made us stand out even more.”
John Alessio created the display as a beacon for the area’s children, his son said, and every Thanksgiving night since 1965 the lights are turned on – often covered live on local news – and are taken down a week after New Year’s Day, like clockwork.
Getting the lights ready is not a simple task, Bud 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.”
Do not ask how many lights were checked or how many are on the building, because Bud Alessio said he has lost count.
“That’s the question I’m always asked, but they’ve been changed so many times. 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 9/11, the displays featured a red, white and blue motif, but the last three years have returned to the traditional holiday colors.
Also, slowly but surely, older lights have been replaced with more energy-efficient LED lights.
“They should be all LED by next year,” Bud Alessio said.
The holiday lights are perhaps best appreciated outside the building, but Bertrand Hug, who runs the rooftop restaurant Bertrand At Mr. 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,” Hug said. “It’s an amazing thing, this beacon in the city, and I feel like I’m the beneficiary of this great tradition.”