As the holidays are soon approaching, some Northern Tier communities are getting into the holiday spirit and encouraging others to do the same.
Holiday lighting contests are being held in the towns of Chazy and Mooers and the village of Champlain, all beginning the week of Dec. 14-20. The contests have become a tradition in the communities, encouraging residents and business owners to deck their halls.
Chazy Town Supervisor Staub C. Spiegel said the contest there has been held for approximately seven years and consists of town council members driving throughout the town looking for the best displays. The town gives out prizes for first, second and third places in the residential category; first place for businesses; and first place for best lit outdoor Christmas tree.
"Some of these people put out what almost look like little villages," said Spiegel. "It's pretty impressive how much people spend on decorations and how much time is put in."
"I can't imagine what their electric bill looks like," he added, laughing.
While the competition may sound daunting, the chances of winning are easier than some would think, said Spiegel.
"We try to rotate the winners every year, so it's not the same people all the time who win," said Spiegel. "There are some that are just unbelievable and they should probably win every year."
Participation in the contest has grown in the last few years, said Spiegel, which he attributes partly to keeping the possibility open that anyone can win. There was even more interest in the contest last year when the town included a best dressed Christmas tree category, said Spiegel. While the category judges trees throughout the town, Spiegel said it was particularly his intention to encourage those with trees along the main thoroughfares in the town such as State Routes 9 and 22.
"And, we had some really, really nice trees decorated," he said. "You really have to drive around to see them."
Spiegel said he'd especially like to encourage businesses within the town to participate. In the business category, winners are also chosen on a rotating basis.
"We don't want to give it to the same businesses every year either, even though some businesses go all out," he said. "We want to encourage more businesses to participate and do more every year."
The town itself has even shown more holiday spirit in the past few years, increasing the number of decorations it installs each year on utility poles, with the assistance of New York State Electric and Gas.
"We've gotten a huge reaction from the new lights we've put up," said Spiegel. "It's something the residents enjoy and I think the more we decorate, the more enthusiasm we get from them and passers-by."
The town originally had approximately 18 pole-mounted decoration, but gradually increased that number. This year, an additional 12 units were purchased to add to the displays.
In the town of Mooers, the town's beautification committee will host its holiday lighting contest for the third year. Scarlett Sample, head of the committee, said this will be the first year the contest will attempt to examine all houses within the town.
"In the past, we've had an application process, last year we only had a few entries. This year, we thought we'd try something different and see if this works out better," Sample said.
The committee will drive throughout the town examining houses, asking those interested in being judged to have their lights on from 5 p.m. on, said Sample. There will be cash prizes for first, second and third prizes.
The village of Champlain will also be judging first, second and third place homes next week, touring the village during the daytime and nighttime, said village trustee Amy Gehrig.
"We are looking for originality, classic, outlandish - basically anything that shows you have the Christmas spirit," said Gehrig. "Christmas is viewed in many different ways by many different people and we want to capture the essence of all the diverse interpretations ... I think that any time you try to do things as a community it only enriches our small village family."
For more information about the village of Champlain holiday lighting contest, contact the village office at 298-4152. Those in the town of Mooers who want to ensure their house will be judged may contact the town office with their address and phone number at 236-7927. Those wanting more information about the Chazy contest may contact the town office at 846-7544.
The results of the holiday lighting contests will be published in the North Countryman when announced.