By Esther Sanchez
Since the age of 12, Kenny Irwin has been building a magical, holiday land full of lights, robots, aliens and all sorts of incredible spectacles for the sole purpose of bringing joy and wonderment to all who visit the 4 acre Palm Springs property. With the continuous blessing of his father who recently passed away…Kenny’s childhood vision has come to fruition and only improved from one year to the next. Robolights visitor, Serene Tahtinen: “I had been here to see the display 5 or 6 years ago and it was great back then but it has grown so much I can hardly believe it. It’s pretty amazing.”
Mostly built out of recycled….well…anything you can think of, Robolights is a testament to the idea of repurposing junk in the name of art, all for the enjoyment of folks, young and old alike. Whether it’s the old lawn furniture that makes up roller coaster tracks, vacuums that serve as reindeer legs or empty paint cans that are built into walls and foundations, it seems as though Kenny has never thrown anything away and finds use for it all. Wrapped in over nine million lights, this place is truly beyond description. In fact I found myself trying to describe it to my siblings on the way over to check it out and was at a loss for adequate words. You just simply cannot be prepared for the utter amazement that Robolights brings.
One of my favorite sections at the location is “Microwave Land.” Most of us can identify with the childhood curiosity of what would happen if we stuck certain objects into the microwave…Well, Irwin went ahead and did it. He has microwaved all sorts of objects including iPhones and tablets. Just because! He even has on display, “One of only 2 in the world’s only microwaved, microwaves.” Because, why not?
Open every year for several weeks from December through early January, Irwin has hosted thousands upon thousands of visitors as the fantastic world he has single-handedly created has doubled and tripled in size, proportions, and level of wonderment. But, this year he was afraid it could have been the last. After a motor overheated on his property last May causing a fire, the city of Palm Springs slapped Irwin with a civil lawsuit and restraining order that would require him to shut Robolights down due to citations on particular displays deemed unsafe. Fortunately enough for all of us and to the relief of Irwin, Superior Court Judge David Chapman ruled the city had not provided sufficient evidence to warrant a restraining order it sought and Robolights lives.
Irwin: “Yes, I was incredibly grateful for winning the case. It’s great to see all the happy faces every night coming. It is my hope the town will eventually see the value in my work and want to work with me…after all it’s about recycling and art, two things Palm Springs is well known for.” After 30 years of work on the property, there is only so much further Irwin can go with Robolights.
Irwin: “My goal for the future is to build a full scale art amusement park called ROBOWORLD. Fun for kids of all ages, ‘a why not world in a why world.’ And of course, who would not want to ride the bright pink fifty toilet carousel?”
Kenny Irwin, on the 30th year since he began Robolights would like to dedicate this year’s victory to his late father, Kenny Irwin Sr. Without his support, none of what exists as Robolights would be possible. Irwin has also been collecting toys and clothing for the children of Syrian refugees on premises so when you come down to enjoy the display, bring something to share.
Robolights is open from 4:30-9:30 PM through Jan 6th.
1077 E Granvia Valmonte, Palm Springs