Sparkleball Streets of Fullerton

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North Yale Ave, Fullerton / photo Don Deyn
(see map below)

The most spectacular sparkleball display has to be in Fullerton, California during the holidays. On several streets in the neighborhood near the Cal State Fullerton campus, there are over 500 whirling, blinking, flashing sparkleballs festooning the tree-lined streets.

It began on North Yale Avenue when father Bill Bales and son Don made sparkleballs for their neighbor Jeff.  Bill had learned to make sparkleballs back in Nebraska before moving west. Jeff already had a pretty big light display in his front yard, and he added the Bales’ sparkleballs to his giant elm tree.   Other neighbors asked the Baleses to make sparkleballs for their yards, too.

Jeff’s yard on N Yale Ave.

Today, Bill Bales is gone, Don carries on the tradition. There are neighborhood sparkleball-making workshops in Don’s garage during the year.  He also keeps his neighbors’ older sparkleballs in working order.

Don Bales’ tree and his mega sparkleball.

On a weekend near Thanksgiving,  giant cranes start hanging.  Each tree gets 9 sparkleballs filled with “dancing” lights. A household pays for the electricity that powers the lights in front of their house– unless a neighbor can’t afford it or their wiring isn’t up to the task. Then other neighbors pitch in.

Bill, Robert, Don, Jeff and Murph (not pictured) are the crew behind N Yale Ave.
The Crew:  Bill, Robert, Don Bales, Jeff. Not pictured, Murph. 

You may see the original crew members standing in a driveway with beer or directing traffic. Sometimes Don Bales passes out candy, and neighbor kids serve hot chocolate. They say that the only part of it they don’t like are the people who ask to buy sparkleballs. “It’s all just for fun,” Don says. “Nobody’s in this for the money.”

Photos and videos do not begin to capture the unexpected wonder of it.  So pile everybody in the car and head to Fullerton.  Lights are  what California holidays do best, and the Fullerton display is, as one little girl said, “Christmas Heaven!”

 

 

 

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