In a season where tiny white lights, window wreaths, inflated Santas and lighted candy canes seem to take over the landscape in Laurel, the Laurel Civic Improvement Committee had a tough job: Narrow down the multitude of twinkling, blinking and even singing holiday displays to the top 10 winners of the city's annual Holiday Spirit Decorating Contest.
The committee relies on others to nominate the homes and businesses in the city that become part of the contest.
"We originally had 23 nominations," City Council member Ed Ricks, who heads the Civic Improvement Committee, said. But some of those nominations turned out to be outside of the city's boundaries, so that narrowed the field. Still, it was a difficult decision, Ricks said.
Among the 10 winners in this year's contest were a Laurel Lakes townhouse decked out with wreaths, apples and pineapples as inspired by Colonial Williamsburg; a house whose yard was chock-a-block with inflatable figures; and a display that was programmed to blink to the beat of music broadcast on 93.5.
Ricks and Civic Improvement Committee member Donna Makowelski judged the houses Dec. 19, and placed a sign in the front yard of those houses that won first, second or third place.
Looking ahead to the 2013 contest, Ricks said the committee is considering judging decorations by categories, such as traditional or modern.
He also said they are exploring ways to get more people involved in the competition; because decorations have to be nominated, Ricks said, many competitive decorations were not judged for the contest.
Ricks said he was impressed with all the displays he and Makowelski saw in Laurel this year, and was glad to see so much spirit.
"It's good to do this," Ricks said of the contest, adding that the decorations enhance the city's landscape. When residents and business owners improve their own property, he said, they aren't just doing it for their own good.
"It's for all of us," he said.
From Williamsburg to whimsy
A love of history in general, and Colonial Williamsburg in particular, inspired the window wreaths and apple and pineapple door decoration at Gene and Ann Elizabeth Zibrat's townhouse on Oakpointe Drive.
"We were at the grand illumination at Williamsburg three weeks ago," Gene Zibrat said.
Nestled among the traditional decorations in their front yard were a Naval Academy banner, while a service star flag could be seen in the livingroom window and an American flag with a Marine Corp ribbon flew outside the front door. The military embellishments honored a nephew who graduated from the Naval Academy and now flies Osprey military aircraft for the Marines, said Gene Zibrat, who is himself retired from the Air Force.
This year's award was the second win for Christina Tellor, who said she gets help from her dad, Robert, and boyfriend, Glenn Baker, in decorating her home on the corner of Domer Avenue and Fourth Street.
"Dad does the lights around the window and Glenn does the lights along the gutter," Tellor said, adding that it takes a couple of days to set up the display, which includes a lighted mailbox with Snoopy on the top and Woodstock peeping out when the mailbox flap mechanically opens.
Creating winnning decorations for the holidays is a seasonal achievement for Tellor; but year-round, she's the top female bowler for Maryland Special Olympics.
With the outside lights turned on and the inside lights turned off, a rambler on Harrison Drive gives the appearance of a gingerbread house, with a lighted candy cane border along the front, and white lights outlining a large tree. But it's actually the home of Kelly and Chris Pickett and their daughter, Kasey, second-place winners in the contest.
Laudis and Sara Turney have lived in their Nichols Drive home since 1953. When decorating for the contest this year, Laudis Turney, 89, said he decided not to go up on the roof.
"I'm decorating less in the last couple years," Turney said. His second-place winning yard decorations included a nativity scene; inflated snowmen; lighted candy canes; and a red, white and blue wreath on the front door.