How the River Rats of Richmond stole the hearts of locals with a flashy deer and lots o’ beer

Richmond is known to shine some of the tackiest, wackiest, and most outrageous lights every winter holiday season. We’re talking total coverage from rooftop to the very edge of a lawn. These houses will make you ask yourself, “How can this many lights not be a hazard? And how the hell did someone get up there?”

The decked-out houses are spread throughout Richmond and get more and more extravagant every year, making it for a new favorite holiday tradition.

This year is especially special for RVA Paddle Sports owner Patrick Griffin, who noticed his poor (not so little) shuttle bus waiting around for summer time. He called up his right hand man Andrew Hawkins, general manager of RVA Paddle Sports, and together turned the bus into something wackier than the lights: a tacky lights tour.


Hawkins’s and Griffin’s vision of the tour rapidly exceeded their expectations. They were booked practically every night of November and are completely booked for the rest of this season.

“It’s a very personal tour,” says Hawkins. “We have a host and a driver working each tour and the host is there to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves as well as making lots of hot chocolate and passing out cookies.  We really want people to relax and enjoy the trip so we try and take all the work.  We play Christmas trivia as well and that usually gets everyone in a great mood.”

Cookies and cocoa aren’t the only perks of this tour. In order to discover who is naughty and who is nice, Hawkins installed a stripper pole in the center of the bus for people to spin around on if they’d like.

When asked if they plan on doing it again next year, Hawkins replied, “YES. Next year. More buses.”

Keep your eyes peeled for the bus with the glowing deer on it, known as the deer with many names: Rowdy, Rodney, Rambo, and the King of Highway 64.

“We have really had a blast this first holiday season,” says Hawkins, “and we are already looking forward to next December.”

Here is a holiday ode to the Tacky Lights Tour:

The rafting season was no more
Leaving Griffin’s and Hawkins’s week as quite the bore
Griffin said, “At least the Hol
idays are coming fast,
 but I hope this bitter cold doesn’t last.”
Hawkins suggested they make the most of the cold
Even though the lack of work was getting old
Suddenly, a bulb went off above Griffin’s head,
If it wasn’t for his curiosity, Hawkins would have fled
Quick as a cat, that clever Griffin flew to his attic,
but when he found no lights, he began to panic.
Where were all those lights he had bought?!
“There must be a way,” he thought,
“to provide the people of Richmond – all wacky,
with a bus ride tour that’s even MORE tacky.”
He called all his rafts guides and told them to come,
bearing silly decorations and lights if they had some.
One by one they came with glee
Griffin’s vision was blossoming, they could see!
Lights they strung and the bus was topped with a deer.
“Now the only thing missing,” said Griffin, “is beer!”
He called Väsen Brewing, asking for his tourist to have beer
Väsen said, “Don’t be silly, just have them come here!”
Griffin and Väsen now had everything set,
to provide a night that Richmonder’s would never forget!