With the return of the Christmas lighting contest, sponsored by the Payson Roundup, APS and the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, many Rim Country residences have been decked out with lights that dazzle the eye and characters to charm the young and young-at-heart.
"We just do it for the fun and spirit," said Leona Bowman of the lights that she and husband Ron spend around 35 hours to put up every year. "We just got carried away this year. We put up 17,000 lights."
The Bowmans won Residential Best Overall first place and $200. Their house is at 900 W. Country Lane (cross street, Eagle Ridge).
Bob and Nancy Birgam won second place and $100, with lights on stairs and lights on trees. There are trains and snowmen to welcome visitors. Their home is at 826 W. Overland.
"I do it for my grandkids," Birgam said. "They come up on Thanksgiving and my wife always wants them for the kids." Thanksgiving night is the first time the lights are turned on. They don't come down until some time after the first of the year. Birgam took about two-and-a-half weeks to put up an estimated 7,000 lights.
"My husband does all the lights. He is the decorator of the family -- the outside, anyway," Raylene Phillips said. The Phillips residence won Most Unique and $25.
The message on the rooftop ("We love you") is for Tony Phillips' mother, who died seven years ago and never saw the Phillips' home at 11 Hillside Drive, Diamond Star.
He said he took three weekends to put up lights as a "gift to the neighbors."
Phillips has enjoyed putting up lights since he was a child, and now his children, Tierney and River, can enjoy the tradition.
He has no idea how many lights are up, but they are pulling about the same amount of power as an electric clothes dryer. He knows because he is an electrician.
Minnette's Place at 703 W. Main St., Payson was the winner in the business/commercial category.
Other $25 winners:
Ray and Joan Berkseth at 1011 N. Easy St., winners of Fun For Kids.
Linda and Ray Wiebe at 608 E. Park Dr. won Religious Theme.
The Jones-Wright family at 2116 and 2118 N. Cold Springs Point (Payson Pines) tied with Vernon Randall at 1905 W. Fairway Lane (west of the Pioneer Cemetery) for Spectacular Lights.
"Boy was this ever tough," said judge Jan Parsons of APS. "There were a lot of great entries and the judges had a very difficult time trying to decide. But you know what, everyone that entered is a winner and we hope they try to stump us again next year.
"As we drove though town, we saw a lot of homes that would have qualified for a prize, but they didn't enter," she said. She hopes there will be more applicants for next year's contest.
"It was spectacular, and it was very heartwarming to see how many Payson residents decorated their homes but chose not to enter the contest. There are a lot of beautiful Christmas lights in this town," said Tina Bruess, executive director for the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.
In the little town of Payson in the Valley of Star in the hills of Pine and Strawberry, there are twinkling lights near and far.
Some other lighted neighborhoods (list is by no means complete):
- Forest Park;
- Around Rumsey Park;
- The area around the golf course.