On Friday, December 1, Upshur Street lit up for its third annual Holiday Windows display. As night fell, shops and restaurants along the 800 block of Upshur Street gleamed with twinkly lights, holiday decorations, and wintry window dioramas. The decorations will stay up until the first week of January.
Molly Ruppert, the mother of Petworth restaurateur Paul Ruppert, owner of Slims Diner, Petworth Citizen and Upshur Street Books, is behind the concept. She says she got the idea three years ago while reminiscing with Paul about looking at department store holiday window displays when she was a girl.
“We always went at night and it was a big occasion and you looked at the lights and displays,” she said. “So I said to Paul: ‘Why don’t we light up Upshur Street?’”
When the idea started, Molly approached several Upshur businesses -- there were fewer then, she says -- and pitched the idea. They were a bit skeptical at first, but receptive. And so in December of 2015, a handful of Upshur Street establishments strung up lights to welcome the holidays. Local artists -- connections from Molly’s past as an art curator -- helped create decorations and displays.
"We thought it would be a neighborly, fun thing to do,” Molly said. "To bring the neighborhood out together and give the neighbors something to do that doesn’t require money and reservations.”
Molly said the project has grown every year, and this year is the best year so far. More than a dozen establishments along the block are participating. The lights have gone up a little earlier to coincide with the Petworth Art Collaborative’s monthly “First Fridays” event on December 1st.
So which displays are particularly great this year? Molly said she’s especially impressed with Slims Diner and Taqueria del Barrio, noting the latter’s copious use of neon, and the cornucopia of snowmen and reindeer atop the front awning.
“I wanted it to look like the Griswold House,” laughed Taqueria del Barrio owner Anna Bran-Leis, when asked about her inspiration for the display. “I wanted to see how much stuff can we actually get up there!”
Bran-Leis, whose taqueria is a newcomer to Upshur, said she was glad to participate in the tradition.
“I love Christmas, and I love the looks on the kids faces when they walk by,” she said. “Lights and Christmas put everyone in a good mood.”