It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Nothing quite communicates the holiday spirit quite like a boatload of lights strung all over your house, your trees, your bushes and every other outdoor surface within reach.
And there’s no place in the valley that embraces that aesthetic with more abandon than the town of Gypsum.
Each December, town officials send out the call to residents. The Gypsum Holiday Lighting Contest offers $100 in cash and a $50 Costco gift card to the overall winner. Additionally, the overall winner is awarded “a bragging rights yard sign.”
But the honors don’t stop there. The winner of the Ever “Green” Award gets $50 in cash and a $50 Holy Cross Energy bill credit, while the Griswold Award – named to honor the family made famous for its over-the-top holiday display in the movie “Christmas Vacation” — delivers a $50 cash prize and a $25 Costco gift card. Then Gypsum spreads the love around even further by naming various neighborhood winners, with each receiving a $50 cash prize.
“Our initial judging is done by anonymous community members,” said Krista DeHerrera, special events coordinator for the town of Gypsum. “Then, when it come down to deciding the final overall winners, it’s really hard to choose because there are so many great displays in this town.”
As with all artistic endeavors, the final decision in the Gypsum Holiday Lighting Contest is a bit subjective, but one of the main criteria is personal effort. Gypsum likes to see displays that reflect homeowner’s sweat. This year, the efforts by the Alvis family at 306 First Street nabbed the top prize.
Homeowner Linda Alvis said the display features ten strands of regular lights and ten of icicles along with a chorus of lighted figures including a snowman, penguins and a moose.
The Alvis clan also pulls out the decorating stops at Halloween.
“We love to make our yard spooky and scary for Halloween, and then light it up to bring the joy of Christmas to the neighborhood,” said Alvis.
She said decorating their yard has become a family and neighborhood affair, as it takes a lot of helping hands to make it just right.
“Everyone always has great ideas and it is so much fun to see what everyone comes up with — it’s never the same two years in a row,” said Alvis
DeHerrera said delivering the prizes to the Alvis home was a great treat. On the night she dropped by, the entire family was hanging out in their holiday pajamas and everyone let out a huge Christmas cheer when DeHerrera announced their display had won the contest. “The inside of the house is just as decorated as the outside,” DeHerrera said. “It definitely made my Christmas to meet them.”
As its name suggests, the Griswold award for the Gypsum Holiday Lighting Contest honors a display that embodies a “go big or go home” theme. The Olesen home at 760 is a literally shining example.
According to Gerry Olesen there are around 50-55 sets of LED lights on display along with a couple of reindeer and Santa on the roof.
“In 2009 we had some left over wood from a project so we made four reindeer and a sleigh,” said Joann Olesen. The sleigh includes all of the family members’ names and every time a new grandchild is born, his or her name is added, along with their birth date. “Our grandson Odin, who passed away in 2011, has a place on the sleigh,” said Joann.
That’s just one of the family stories told in the Olesen Christmas lighting display.
The snow man family represents the couple and their two daughters, and the Olesens are currently working on snow people to represent their grandkids. The big Christmas wreath that is in the window started out with left over branches from the family’s Christmas tree and got bigger after the Olesen’s helped prune their neighbor’s trees.
Each year it takes about two days to set up the display. Gerry asks Joann to climb the trees to place pulleys and the rope he uses to pull the reindeer up toward the tree. “Every November he says, ‘Do you have any new ideas for how we should put the reindeer and sleigh?’ I just laugh and say leave them on the ground,” said Joann.
Gerry decided to add Santa two years ago. He creates all the wood decorations free hand, so there is no pattern for his finished projects. While much of the display reappears from year to year, the Olesens swapped out regular lights to LED bulbs three years ago. Two of the lighted trees in the yard are made out of rebar and the swirling trees are fashioned from old car springs.
“We really don’t have a theme —we just enjoy doing it,” said Joann. “We do it for our son Jason, and all of the people in our community. It brings us great joy to see the kids on the sidewalk stop and point and talk to their parents.”
Spreading the cheer
Gypsum’s lighting display extends out into every neighborhood around town and each neighborhood has its own winners.
Lynn and Tammy Elliott took top honors in their part of town.
The Elliotts have been putting up their light show for the last 10 years. “We have around 1,000 lights in just the tree alone,” said Tammy, who estimated that the total number of lights in their outdoor display range from 3,000 to 4,000.
“I love doing it,” said Tammy, who says she does the displays in memory of her daughter, Rebecca.
“I love seeing the faces of the kids when they see our displays.”
In terms of area, it’s the county’s smallest conservation deal ever. In terms of location, it’s one of the county’s rarest acquisitions.