Since Troy’s Christmas Lights Contest began four years ago, seasonal decorations have almost doubled, according to the event’s organizer.
Angie Huisentruit said that the contest was thought up by her friend and collaborator Jeni Bradley Evans.
Evans, who grew up in California, had a memory of a town there that went all-out each Christmas, becoming a kind of “Santa Claus town,” Huisentruit said. She wanted to see Troy achieve that kind of spirit.
Two years ago, Evans was diagnosed with cancer, and passed away within a month. Now, Huisentruit carries on the tradition.
“I kind of do it to keep her memory alive, because it was something she really enjoyed,” Huisentruit said.
This year, Rick and Nancy Tallmadge — whose decorating won them the People’s Choice award voted on by community members online — donated their $100 prize to local pet rescue centers in memory of Evans.
Huisentruit said that it makes her happy to see how Troy has embraced decorating for Christmas, and all for the right reasons.
The milder winter may have encouraged more decorating this year as well, she said. “It’s easier to get out there and put stuff up when there’s not a couple feet of snow you have to battle.”
Last year’s heavy snowfall hit right before judging week, not just discouraging more decorating, but breaking some decorations that were already up, she said.
Each category receives a $100 prize, but is meant simply to help offset some of the electric costs of the winners, Huisentruit said. The real reason people do it is to celebrate with their community.
The contest gets everyone engaged, including business owners.
In the beginning, with no funding, Huisentruit and Evans approached business owners to donate toward the prizes. In exchange for the $20 donation, each business gets to appoint a judge.
This year, Huisentruit said around 20 local businesses participated.
“It’s a good way to see the community,” she said. And, it’s a good way to encourage people to shop in Troy, potentially benefiting businesses.
In addition to categories for people who really like to shine bright, Huisentruit said that she continues to try to come up with ideas for categories that will keep things fresh and interesting.
But, she also wants to make sure the contest stays something that anyone can enter, regardless their budget.
As an example, she noted the Most Unique category — won this year by Chuck and Chris Ekstedt for their small constellation of stars hanging on the hillside above Callahan Creek. While the display had only a few strands of lights, the creativity behind it really showed.
And there was also a Classic Christmas category, won by Doug and Deanise Killingsworth.
The community gets to pick a favorite as well, with the People’s Choice category.
And of course there’s one to recognize those who really put the effort in with the Most Over the Top Display category — won this year by Barb Pence and Paul Olson.