Red Deerians are getting into the holiday spirit judging by all the twinkling house lights and lawn ornaments.
It’s the second year for the city’s Neighbourhood Lights the Night contest which is an extension of the city’s Red Deer Lights the Night program.
Neighbourhood community associations will judge the residential displays and prizes purchased by the city will be awarded.
“Oriole Park is pretty lit up this year. It will be tougher to make decisions,” said Leanne Gould, Oriole Park Community Association co-president.
“It’s really nice to see more people getting involved and making it fun. I love it. Christmas is magic,” said Gould, who suspects people are determined to make others happy during the lingering pandemic.
Jennifer Reichel, community facilitator with the city’s safe and healthy communities department, said last year associations weren’t able to do much to connect with residents because of COVID-19 and the Neighbourhood Lights the Night contest provided a way to reach out to them.
She said the contest was well received in 2020 and interest has increased this year.
“I think it’s something we will grow and build.”
All 20 community associations are participating this year. Each association runs the contest a little differently. Some may recognize first time decorators. Others may award the most creative or unique displays. It all depends on the association.
“It’s not always biggest and best. It’s about reaching out and recognizing different people each year.”
Community associations will receive at least three prizes to award. Larger neighbourhoods will get more.
Jim Todd, East Morrisroe Community Association president, said about 10 years ago he gave out letters thanking those in the neighbourhood who decorated for the holidays. Recipients appreciated the recognition, and the association is excited about Neighbourhood Lights the Night.
“It helps the community at Christmas time to get in the Christmas spirit. I think it’s a great tradition for the city to promote,” said Todd who has strung up holiday lights since 1985 and makes sure to turn them on early in the morning so people driving to work can begin their day with a smile.
Stephen Merredew, West Park Community Association president, said there were some awesome displays last year and the association is working to increase awareness about the contest.
“We have bunch of new categories this year. Like anything new we’re kind of feeling our way through it and seeing what works to get people’s attention and what doesn’t,” Merredew said.
He said it’s a wonderful way to build community spirit.
Historian Michael Dawe said Red Deerians have a long tradition of putting up holiday lights.
He recalled how residents on 48th A Avenue used to get together and decorate their entire street. Lights were interconnected from house to house and a nativity scene was set up under a spotlight at the end of the street.
“There were some really outstanding ones that I remember as a younger person. I can remember all kinds of beautiful displays around the city,” Dawe said.
Years ago there used to be a city-wide decorating contest and one of the prizes was paying the winner’s electricity bill for December. Before LED lights came along, power consumption for big displays could be quite high, he said.
Dawe said it’s nice that Red Deerians continue the tradition.
“In the dark, long nights this time of year it’s really nice to see the coloured lights and the joy that they bring to so many people.”