The lights on 33 homes entered in the second annual Christmas lighting contest glittered brightly on a cold Payson night this past Friday, Dec. 15.
After three hours of judging, a trio of women -- Jan Parsons of APS, Tina Bruess of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce and myself, Felicia Megdal of the Payson Roundup -- chose displays for first, second and third place, as well as two honorable mentions.
Chuck, Shirley and Hunter Hardt took the $750 grand prize for their bright winter wonderland. They created a scene illuminated with white Christmas lights, a roof striped with red and green lights and an old-fashioned sled. The decorations included an inflatable snow globe and a holiday hologram reflected on the garage door.
"My son, Hunter, did it all," Shirley Hardt said. "He threw out a bunch of lights. He just took off with it. He's just going to be beside himself (about the first-place award)."
Pick up the print edition of the Dec. 19 Payson Roundup for a map highlighting the locations of all 33 entries in the 2006 APS Holiday Lighting Contest
The judges felt the holiday decor was tasteful and understated.
"Oh, wow," Bruess said. "That is a wower."
"This one was just more than putting up a string of lights," Parsons added.
Second prize -- $500 in cash -- went to Bruce, Susie and Adam Haught's home with the red-light lined driveway, the holly lights behind the windows, Santa Claus and a nativity scene.
"I like this," Parsons said. "They decorated the windows, too."
The Haughts transformed the facade and yard of their home into a quaint holiday hamlet that incorporated religious and secular themes.
"This is a cute gingerbread house," Bruess said.
Patti and Rick Korth's spacious front yard and high-eaved home created an opportunity for a variety of yuletide motifs and was awarded the $250 third-place prize.
The judges enjoyed the Korths' subdued nativity scene -- comprised of muted statues under soft light.
"I like their religious theme," Parsons said.
The Korths spaced their decorations throughout the yard, placing lighted elk, Santas and angels on the rocky ground and in the trees.
"There are a lot of lights and a lot of different parts, but it's not flashy," Bruess said. "Good use of color without being crazy."
With such a high-quality pool of entrants, the judges decided to add two honorable mentions. Although these contestants won't receive cash prizes, their creativity and effort provided standout lighting schemes.
Tambra and Ed Armenta's bright lights, candy canes and decorated trees caught the attention of the judges.
"I like what they did with the trees," Bruess said.
The sparkling lights of Bob Birgam's colorful yard brought a sense of movement and holiday spirit. Birgam used blinking trains and dynamic lawn decorations to convey his message.
"I like all the colors," Bruess said.
"Lots of lights, lots of continuity that's carried over to the side of the house," Parsons said.
As the judges drove around the streets of Payson Friday night, looking at lights, they witnessed many missed opportunities -- decorated homes that had not been entered in the competition.
"We were driving around and saw several houses that should've entered," Bruess said.