The winners of this year’s Highland Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas Lights Competition draw the inspiration for their displays from their own classic family traditions.
The contest, which was sponsored by the Highland Chamber of Commerce, drew two winners, from two categories. The “Home for the Holidays” category went to a contestant who exhibited a display showing a more classic display of lights, while the “Clark W. Griswold” category went to a display which shows an excessive use of lights.
The winners this year will receive a $25 Chamber Gift Certificate, have pictures of their house posted on the Highland Chamber of Commerce Facebook page, a sign in their yard denoting which category they won, and most importantly, bragging rights until next year’s competition
Home for the Holidays
Janet and Neill Nicolaides took the “Home for the Holidays” category, with their timeless display using twinkling white lights, wreaths and garlands at their home on 2030 Broadway.
Janet said Neill carefully work to align the lights atop the gutters, while she places wreaths and garlands, decorated with bright red Christmas bows along the house.
Miniature evergreen trees line the walkway leading up to house, lit by the same bright white lights. Greeting guests in the front yard is a cheerful inflatable Santa Claus, Neill’s personal touch, according to Janet.
The inside of the house is just as richly decorated as the outside, adorned with the same decorations, which match the outside with wreaths, bows, garlands and the white lights.
“I have enough lights bought till I die,” Janet said.
Janet said it usually takes about a day to set up the display. They usually start decorating after Thanksgiving, with the goal to get everything complete before Highland’s annual Christmas parade.
Janet said the main inspiration for their display comes from her own warm family memories. As her family’s Christmas Eve tradition, her mother would pile all of the kids inside the old station wagon, while their father stayed home. The children would travel through town to gaze upon the other intricately decorated houses.
“And naturally, when we got home, Santa had been there,” Janet said.
The Nicolaides said they love that their home is now part of the same holiday pass time.
“I love that people can drive by and enjoy it. I enjoy it every time I come up the hill. Sometimes, I come around just to look at it twice,” Janet said.
Clark W. Griswold
The second winners of the competition certainly live up to the Griswold name.
The Poettker family took the prize for their extravagant display, which covers almost a full two blocks stemming from the home at 318 Washington St.
The tradition began when Alan Poettker was about 11 years old.
“Dad was deer hunting on a trip, and mom got tired of me and told me to go throw some lights up on the bushes outside,” Alan said.
He said his mother was not just happy with a few lights, so they went to get more — and more and more.
“And then we started going bigger. And things kind of got out of hand, I guess some people might say,” Poettker said.
As the years went on, Alan started to build his own mechanical displays, beginning with the famous surf boarding pooch he calls “Spuds Mackenzie.” Other moving displays include a toucan to compliment Spuds, a homemade Ferris wheel, carousal, light-up air plane and a galloping reindeer to name a few.
This is the first time in six years that the family has put the display up. Alan usually does it every few years, so he can get a brief respite, for good reason.
“I literally went from the end of August, when I started putting stuff up, until when the lights turned on. It didn’t even seem like I had a fall, because I was working out here,” Poettker said.
He estimated that, this year, the family has put in a total of 250 hours into setting up the display, with 40 of those hours being spent on putting up the gutter lights alone.
While most families do not go to the extent that the Poettkers do to spread a little bit of holiday cheer, Alan said the reason why they do is simple — they love to see the joy it brings to other families who drive by.
“Sometimes, you just got to put that to the side and say, ‘You know what? You only live once. Let’s have some fun while we’re doing it,’” Alan said.
The family’s tradition is now starting to span to the younger generations. Alan said he will run into parents with their children who recall coming to see their house with their parents and grandparents.
Each year, the Poettkers also choose a local organization to benefit by using their display. This year, the family chose to raise money for the Highland Animal Shelter. Visitors wishing to donate can stop by, sign the guest book, enjoy the lights, and have some complimentary candy while viewing the display.
Alan wanted to thank his parents and all of the friends and family who helped to set up the display and wished a Merry Christmas to the community.
“Enjoy the season. Put a little bit of joy out there in the world today. There’s not enough of it out there,” he said.