Bright lights in dark nights |

Bright lights in dark nights

Derek Franzdfranz@eaglevalleyenterprise.comVail, CO Colorado

GYPSUM, Colorado – In some ways, the entire population of Gypsum is the real winner of the town’s 17th annual Holiday Lights Contest. After all, the contest always results in bright displays for everyone to see.Competition was stiff this year, with the grand prize decided by half a point, said Dawn Ritts, Gypsum’s special projects coordinator.”There were over 10 contest judges and their choices were averaged to find the various area and overall winners,” Ritts said.Ultimately, out of the 46 entries – about twice as many as last year – the Hughes family’s display at 160 Talus in Sky Legend won the free night in a suite at the AmericInn, a $250 value. “All together, the lights took about 10 or 12 hours over about four days to set up,” said Jeremy Hughes, who shares the home with his wife and two children, ages 7 and 2. “My daughter is thrilled.”The Hugheses have participated in the contest for the last two years and have previously won best display for the Cotton Ranch area. Grand prize runner-up and grand prize second runner-up were 660 Grundel Way and 120 Price Place, respectively.”Aircraft flying in from the west or southwest have probably attempted to land at 160 Talus or 760 Valley Road,” Ritts joked about some well-lit displays that contended for top honors. The latter address won the Clark Grizwold award.Ironically, winner for Best Use of LED lights, Bob Heckendorf, is a corporate pilot who just returned from Mexico when he found out he won a prize.”This was kind of a Christmas present for my wife – I hired some help to put up the lights,” Heckendorf said. “Even though I’m a pilot, I’m acrophobic. I get up on the second step of a ladder and it’s like, ‘Oh, I don’t know about this.'”

A total prize value of $1,000 was doled out among 12 winners.”The prizes are really good this year,” said Jennifer Kirkland, who won the Clark Grizwold award last year with her husband. “When I saw the list of prizes it made me extra bummed I couldn’t do it this year.”The Kirklands are looking at moving to a new home in Gypsum and didn’t put up Christmas lights this year in order to save themselves some extra packing. “The prizes were good last year, but they’re better than ever this year,” Kirkland said. “I never did it for the prize, though. I’ve always loved lights.”Kirkland loves Christmas lights so much that she is considering the potential for light displays as she shops for a new home.”The house has to have good, clean lines, steep peaks … I’m pretty picky,” she said.Kirkland also shops for new lights each year after Christmas, when they’re on sale. She’s been building her collection for years and recently went to all LED lights. Many others are doing the same.LED stands for “light-emitting diode.” Such lights are noted for their small size, brightness and energy efficiency. According to news reports from across the country, LEDs have been gaining popularity in recent years for all kinds of uses, especially Christmas lights. Even the famous Rockefeller Tree in New York City has been decorated with LEDs since 2008.”One good trend we have seen this year is the transition from traditional to LED lights,” Ritts said. “More and more homes seem to be using the energy-efficient LED strands, and that is great to see.”Heckendorf said he switched to the new lights three years ago.”They’re so much less expensive and they run forever,” he said. “LEDs have a different texture to them, too.”

Ritts has organized Gypsum’s lighting contest for the last three years. Before that, Suzanne and Mark Silverthorn were at the helm, and Pam Schultz before that. Schultz is currently a Gypsum Town Council member.”When I first got on the town board, the rest of the council agreed to sponsor the Christmas light contest,” Schultz said. “At that time, of course, Gypsum wasn’t as spread out and not nearly as many houses as there are now, so we didn’t have a lot of area to cover. The week before Christmas, my children and I would get in the car and drive all over town and look at the homes that were decorated for the season. We would use a rating system of who had the most lights, the best decorated and the most original. I would normally leave the decision to (the children) as to who was the winner, runner up and third place. The home of Frank and Bonnie Ward on Highway 6 always was very nicely decorated every year and they did win a couple of times. The Bernhardt’s house in upper Bertroch was always decorated to the hilt and they also won several times. We tried not to do repeat winners if at all possible but sometimes it was hard not to.”With the new technology and current economy, many changes have come to pass since the old days. But the Holiday Lights Contest seems to remain as constant as the lights themselves, like a bright beacon of comfort in a small town.”This year’s contest has been fantastic,” Ritts said. “It’s great to see our residents really getting into the Christmas spirit. We had way more entries this year compared to last year, though I think that there are fewer lit houses overall, which probably has something to do with the economy. There are quite a few vacant homes around town this year.”

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