The neighborhood is usually sedate. However at dusk during the holiday season, one corner flares into life. Towering animatronic robots whir into motion. Giant inflatables rise and over a million holiday lights flare to life. If Tim Burton stepped into this neighborhood art display I imagine he’d feel right at home. It’s the official site of the largest residential light display in the United States and created at the home of artist Kenny Irwin.
Robolights has been growing on the Irwin family two acre home lot since 1986 when young Kenny Irwin nailed together a giant robot. Later his room at college was strung with masses of lights. Now in his early forties, he adds new parts and pieces to the displays each year and spends months stringing millions of lights for the holiday show.
There are narrow paths and covered bridges, a variety of Santas, reindeer heads coming out of toilet bowls, reindeer-like mannequins led by a Santa in a tank, tall creatures from a vivid imagination and too many to list.
Carousels whirl, music churns and ticket booths beckon. The experience is totally unique and while some of it seems macabre, the heart of the matter is that Kenny wants to entertain.
“The general purpose of my art, and the annual art and light display, is to both counteract the negative energy in the world and gear people into positive mindset when they experience my work. Aspects of my work also are to encourage and inspire others about sustainability, space exploration and tech.” ~ Kenny Irwin
He douses many of his assemblages with paint in monochrome hues. Microwaveland is a maze of screens and bulbous creatures, some parts indeed created inside microwaves. Santa’s workshop is a shrine to Kenny’s visions with every inch covered in collections of recycled, re-purposed pieces.
This season the nonprofit group Boo2bullying.org has been serving hot chocolate and cookies. A volunteer accepts donations in a sink bowl.
Kenny’s father condoned the endeavor from the beginning. “Going to this place is an experience. Nothing you can say, except amazing.” It may be a bit strong for young kids but Kenny sees it this way, “Most all kids never want to leave Robolights and the premise is, “It’s a why not world in a why world.” That positive message is worth exploring. With enough support from the growing crowds, Robolights will grow even brighter in the years to come.
If you go to see the holiday lights:
When: The holiday light is open from Thanksgiving week to the first week of January. Call for days and times at other times of the year. TEXT 1-760-774-0318 to make an appointment to see art inside the grounds year round.
As of December 14th, the City of Palm Springs is allowing limited entry. Check the Facebook Page as the hours may change. ROBOLIGHTS hours daily 4-9:30 until Jan 1st. New toys and clothes for the Syrian refugees are being gathered to make their lives more joyful. Drop off booth located to the right as you enter.
Where: 1077 East Granvia Valmonte, Palm Springs
Support the effort and follow the Robolights Facebook Page
More about Kenny and his art at his website.
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Just Wow! 🙂 I really want to live there 🙂 It looks like surreal reality which is created by huge imagination. I’m totally agree with you, it looks close to Tim Burton Corpse Bride, as for me.
You want to live there! Drop by and meet the founder, Kenny. He has lots of volunteers. Check out the Robolights Facebook page.
It looks like an amazing trip through someone’s mind, such creativity. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Nathalie. Kenny Irwin is definitely one of a kind and so inspired.
Wow, incredible! Wish we were nearby so we could stop in to see it.
It’s open year round by appointment but you’d miss the light show any time other than the holiday season.
This is definitely a quirky display. I’m undecided as to whether I would enjoy seeing this in person or find it too weird and creepy. It strikes me as the kind of display you have to see to believe!
I think you’d find it charming – especially if you go in the daytime.
Wow, this is so cool! I love that you can see art year round. I think you’re right that Tim Burton would love this place. 😉
Thanks, Vicky and Buddy, I hope you can see it for yourself one day.
What a fun and imaginative light display!! I love it! Thank you for featuring it and Kenny Irwin.
I so appreciate your positive comments. It’s definitely not a display for everyone!
Now THAT’S a light show! I find it interesting that there seems to be an appropriate medium for everyone’s art. My grandsons would love all the color.
Your grandsons would love the robots too!
How cool! I love festive holiday experiences like this. Would love to check it out some day! I really like how he has a sustainability element to the display as well–it’s eco friendly and adds such unique elements into the art!
Jenna, agreed. Irwin is using found and donated objects, keeping them out of landfills and using the power of his dreams to make something intriguing and beautiful.
What a quirky weird experience – but I do like lights so I’m sure it would indeed be amazing!
It is quirky, weird and so compelling. To walk through was an experience I won’t forget.
Robolights looks quirky, entertaining and completely amazing. If I was in Palm Springs around now, I’d definitely visit!
The display is open year round by appointment but the lights are part of the holidays only. I hope you can stop by one day.
What a unique light show and experience! How fun. I have to say it’s not exactly my taste but I can appreciate the creativity behind it and art.
It’s not a display for everyone and is hard to pigeonhole into a holidays theme but the lights, the various carols played and the Santa’s Workshop push it over the line.
That’s so cool! I love Tim Burton, so when you said it reminded you of him I was immediately on board. Seems like a really fun art installation.
Mags, I think you’d really enjoy walking through. If you call ahead you can see it year round.
Wow great light show but what amazes me most is that this is a job of one man. Definitely worth seeing and I am sure kids will love it!
It is amazing how Irwin has created this installation. He started in 1986 with his first big robot and with his father’s encouragement and donations from the neighbors it just keeps growing. Some of it might be confusing or a bit scary for the kiddies though.
This would be my daughter’s worst nightmare. She’d be so freaked out. I liked the animatronic robot but the rest were not my taste.
I wouldn’t recommend this for little kids. It’s definitely strong stuff.
I’ve never seen anything like this (not even a large parade with inflatable!) I definitely got the feeling of space exploration, more leaning towards aliens, so Kenny was doing something right.
Add in sustainability and it sounds like you got the message, Gemma.
Who knew that kind of lights display would be in Palm Springs! It’s so incredible. I mean, that’s a lot of work he put into all that stuff. Those robots are awesome!
Glad you liked it, Laura. It’s amazing to walk through and realize what it must have taken to put it all together and maintain it so well.
What a peculiar display, I am actually not sure how I feel about it. I find the robots fascinating and I admire the creativity and skills that went into making them, but I find the whole ensemble overwhelming – so big, so bright. Still, it’s something I’d love to experience in person: senses overload for sure, but definitely thought provoking!
Marta, that was my experience too – a bit disconcerting and a sensory overload. I was alone for much of my walk through and imagined all kinds of weird scenarios! Still it was wonderful to experience.
Oh wow, Elaine! My nephews would have loved this exhibit! I love robots too-I find them so fascinating!
It’s certainly a unique creation. Hope you can visit one day.
It’s certainly a different spin on the holiday light shows! We spent Christmas in the USA in 2006, and I was totally overawed by the amount of amazing set-ups people had made, often just in their front garden. While I love the display, there is a part of me that abhors the use of so much energy. I’m not at all sure how to bring the two feelings together… Kenny Irwin seems to have found a way.
Good points about the energy. Since Irwin builds out of donated electronics & cast-offs he might be off-setting some of the energy use.
I find it really fascinating and I guess it would be good to see it with my own eyes, but just like Anda, I cannot really get the connection between Christmas and the show – but I don’t really like modern versions of Christmas tree or other Christmas decorations.
Good point about the energy usage! It’s temporary at least & Irwin uses recycled pieces so you may be right about his show balancing out.
So cool! I think my son would love a trip out to palm springs to check this out! There is a house in LA that does a cool set up along the same lines for Halloween and it’s so cool to see how it all comes together!
Send along the address for the LA house. I’d love to see it too!
Sorry Elaine, but all these robots and grotesque figurines do not seem to have anything to do with Christmas in my mind. I don’t really know what Kenny Irwin thinks he is doing, maybe he thinks this is a form of ‘art’?Whatever he calls it, I don’t find it appealing at all. That’s not to say that your reporting is not interesting. But for your post I would have learned about the ‘robolights.’ I guess if he would just leave the ‘robo’ part out and only use the ‘lights’ it would be way more appealing.
The installation is definitely not for everyone. Guess I admire the work, the lights always tickle me and I’m geek enough to get a kick out of robots! Thanks though for writing, Anda. What it all has to do with Christmas? The beauty is in the eye of the beholder (and builder.)