Dalworthington Gardens—Just southwest of Arlington in rural oasis known as Dalworthington Gardens is a downhome Mexican restaurant where the Feliz Navidad feelings are never fickle.
“I’ve never seen this much tinsel,” commented Kate Bustos.
“It kind of takes your breath away. There’s a lot of lights in here,” added Rick Johnson
“This is the most amazing place I’ve ever seen in my life,” claimed Dottie Groves.
“It’s a celebration. It’s fun and the rest of the year, it’s just rice and beans every day,” said James Williams.
James has owned Campo Verde since 1978 and since 1983, they’ve been at this particular spot on Pioneer Parkway. When it comes to the holidays at this hangout…
“All hell breaks loose here,” said James.
He’s referring to the inordinate amount of ornaments.
“It really tells you who’s never been here. When that door opens and they walk through the door… Some of them just freeze, like, ‘Oh my God,'” explained James.
“When I walked in I was like, is this for real?” said Kate.
“This is crazy stuff. It’s amazing,” added Dottie.
“The Griswolds don’t have nothing on me. There’s no way!” joked James.
While the smell of sizzling fajitas fills the air, the sight of Santa staring down on you makes you realize Christmas is near. But then again, the decorations go up in October and won’t come back down till April 1st!
“My customers get upset when I take it down,” explained James.
This tradition all started with James’ brother-in-law, Jimmy Irving, back in the 80’s, but today a girl named Gloria gets the in Excelsis Deo on decorations. Just don’t expect to see Gloria because she prefers to be a mystery of faith when it comes to the festivities.
“I mean, I’ll take credit for it because I’m in charge of it and used to do it all. But Gloria is the one that does it all now. Of course, we let her know it, too… She don’t want to be on camera… She’s bashful,” said James.
“She’ll be through by next Friday. She’s still tweaking. She’s got about another 600 feet of garland to put up in here. And these stars up here… She’s got about 28 more to put up. We even decorate the bathroom,” he explained.
“A little over 136,000 [lights], Twenty-seven, eight miles, four-color garland, about 75 [Christmas trees], 60 [Santa Clauses], probably 35 [angels], a thousand [Christmas balls],” listed James. “All kinds of stuff. We have fun with it, that’s for sure.”
As you can imagine, when it comes to the Christmas season at Campo Verde, it can get a little crazy around here.
“Every year, I say there’s no way we can be busier, but we are,” said James.
“People. They really like it. I mean, it’s just amazing. Last year… 150 people [were] outside waiting and more people walking up. And I was telling them, ‘You got at least an hour and a half, maybe two hour wait,’ and they didn’t care. That’s what keeps me going,” he admitted.
“When you walk in, this is what we used to do when we were younger, and you’d have garland everywhere. You don’t see that anymore,” explained Dottie.
“It kind of just takes you back to your childhood,” claimed Rick.
“You walk in the door and you see this, it takes you out of your head. It takes you in a whole new world,” said Kate.
While the Noel novelty is fun to see, it’s all about the celebration of Christmas, gathering together to enjoy a good meal and thanking the Lord for another year in the Lone Star State.
“The tears are held back because when you think about Christmas, I think about all of that, and what we used to do, and going down into our game room and having it decorated like this. It’s pretty cool,” said Dottie.
“You got to get some reward out of what you’re doing. I do. It’s not for me so much that makes you feel good; it’s seeing other people…The only thing I worry about, I really do, worry about paying the damn light bill,” said James.
So come hungry to Campo Verde but prepared to leave stuffed with Christmas spirit.
“Just to see this place is amazing. Whether you’re here from Texas or not, this is a place to see,” said Dottie.
“It’s a restaurant, but it’s an experience. I think that’s what people look for,” concluded Kate.