Red and green wreaths adorning doors, lights twinkling, and blowup Santas bouncing to a jingle bell beat out on the front lawn, these are all components of a jolly Christmas display. They were also deciding factors in the first-ever Highland Christmas Lights Competition.
The competition had 11 entries competing in two categories. Residents voted for their favorites. And there were a lot of votes.
“Although I am not surprised, we are delighted by the interest that this program has drawn,” said Nancie Zobrist, executive director of Highland of Chamber of Commerce. “Highland is such a great community with homeowners that take great pride in their neighborhoods. The Highland Christmas Lights program was a great outlet to show off our amazing residents and their hard work.”
The winners of the competition, sponsored by the Highland Chamber of Commerce, were announced Wednesday, Dec. 21.
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The “Clark W. Griswold,” category was classified by excessive use of lights, animation, and music. After all the ballots were counted, the winners were Jane and Paul Kineke of 2106 Hillcrest Drive.
The “Home for the Holidays,” category was considered the more classic definition of Christmas decoration. The winners were Shelia and Tom Hester of 325 Kingsbury Court.
“Clark W. Griswold” winners Jane and Paul Kineke
The Kineke tradition started 23 years ago when the family lived in Minot, N.D. It started with just a single feature. But, as the family moved, the display has snowballed.
An Air Force family, the Kinekes also lived in California, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, before finally landing in Highland.
“We add our own stuff that we make every year, anywhere from 10 to 40 items. And then we probably add another 10 light things,” Paul said.
The display certainly lives up to its “Griswold” award.
The Kineke Christmas extravaganza displays countless lights. (To reduce electricity bills, the family has been changing to LED lights for two years). There are also dozens of decorations and unique wood cutouts. The cutouts are cut and then hand painted by Jane. Each one represents a little piece of the family.
We’re Christian. So, for us, this is the biggest holiday of the year — the birth of Christ. That is our inspiration — to make it a very special celebration for our Lord and Savior.
Tom Hester, winner of Highland Chamber of Commerce “Home for the Holiday” Christmas Lights Contest
This year’s display took the Kinekes two full days to set up and includes a willow tree with 2,800 lights, a fairy garden with 13 new Disney princesses, featuring Anna and Elsa from “Frozen” and wood cutouts of the whole family, including the family dog.
“We do this because we love Christmas, and it brings a lot of joy to the neighborhood,” Paul said. “I can’t imagine not doing it. There is a lot of Christmas spirit in the town, and we like to contribute to that with our house. We thought it would be a great idea to enter the competition because it was the first one that they have done.”
Another new addition this year is the donation drive that the Kinekes started. They placed a sign outside their house asking the viewers of there display to bring any donations that they can. According to Paul, over a truck load of donations have already been collected including food, toys and a bit of cash.
“We figured it was time to give back,” Jane said. “We were getting quite a good crowd coming past every year, and we figured spread the joy.”
According to the Kinekes, about 100 people visit the display per night.
Their investment is probably in the tens of thousands of dollars, Jane said, but she really isn’t sure.
“I don’t want to add it up,” Jane said. “It would probably be scary.”
“Home for the Holidays” winners Shelia and Tom Hester
According to Shelia, her husband is the one to thank for all of the decorating, a tradition that began years ago, while Tom was still in the Air Force.
“Being a military family, to celebrate where ever we went, decorating with lights for Christmas was one way to make it feel like home,” Tom said. “In some way shape or fashion, I’ve put up lights whereever I’ve been stationed.”
The Hester family has been at their home in Highland for 11 years, and their Christmas display has been growing ever since.
They try to pick something new up every year. Tom wakes up early every Black Friday to start setting up the lights, which usually takes all day. However, this year’s winning display took three days to set up.
In the last couple of years, Tom saw the town’s Christmas trolley passing by their house and received many compliments from his neighbors. When he heard about the contest, he decided that his display would have a shot. But the prize was not his inspiration.
“We’re Christian. So, for us, this is the biggest holiday of the year — the birth of Christ,” Tom said. “That is our inspiration — to make it a very special celebration for our Lord and Savior.”
Tom’s favorite part of his display are the white lights on top the house. It is always important to him to get them straight and perfect.
We do this because we love Christmas, and it brings a lot of joy to the neighborhood. I can’t imagine not doing it. There is a lot of Christmas spirit in the town, and we like to contribute to that with our house.
Paul Kineke, winner of the Highland Chamber of Commerce “Clark W. Griswold” Christmas Lights Contest
Shelia’s favorite thing about the display is the handmade, light-up trees that can be seen all the way down the street.
Every year the display is always a favorite tradition for the Hesters, but according to Shelia, their most favorite things about Christmas is being together and spreading happiness to other people.
“I want to thank everybody for voting for us,” Tom said. “It was our pleasure and our honor to be chosen this year, and thanks for helping us make Christmas great again.”
Both families received a $25 Highland Chamber of Commerce certificate for winning the competition. When both families were asked about what they were going to do with their prize, they both answered with the same answer — buy more lights.