The Coast News Group
Christmas on Knob Hill
"Christmas on Knob Hill" was canceled this year due to COVID-19. Courtesy photo
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Legendary Knob Hill Christmas light display won’t light up this year

SAN MARCOS — For more than 30 years, the holiday light extravaganza known as “Christmas on Knob Hill” has attracted tens of thousands of visitors from all over the country, but the iconic display in San Marcos will not light up this year because of COVID-19 concerns.

Bill Gilfillen, an 82-year-old retired Navy flight engineer, and his family have hosted Christmas on Knob Hill for 33 years at their home at 1639 Knob Hill Road.

From Thanksgiving Eve to Dec. 30, passersby would gather to see more than 100,000 holiday lights cover the Gilfillen residence, along with displays of Santas, reindeer, snowmen, sleighs, Disney characters, giant candy canes and more.

The display would typically take about 2 to 3 months to set up, according to the family, but it is completely powered by solar energy.

In previous years, Gilfillen would walk outside to greet the visitors, many of whom came from beyond San Marcos and California. Visitors also enjoyed a visit from Santa every night for about a week before Christmas.

This year, the Gilfillen home shows no signs of Christmas lights or decorations. The family issued a statement, which is also written on a whiteboard outside of their home:

“To all our friends who visit Christmas on Knob Hill: For the first time in over 30 years, due to the virus and our concern for our families’ and friends’ well-being, we will not have a display this year. But we promise 2021 will be bigger and brighter.”

Claudia, a San Marcos resident who was passing by the home and stopped to read the sign, told The Coast News that this will be the first year her kids won’t be able to visit Christmas on Knob Hill.

“I have two little girls, they’re 6 and 8 years old, both born in San Marcos,” Claudia said. “My husband and I have been coming to this house during the holidays since before they were born. It’s really strange seeing it like this, but, at the same time, I get it. They have to protect their family.”

She added that she never thought she and her family would have to give up some of their beloved holiday traditions, which can be a hard pill to swallow.

As San Diego County, along with the rest of the nation, continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, many families like the Gilfillens are having to face the reality that even the holidays and sacred family traditions may not be the same for a while.