Whitby, Ont., Christmas light competition shines amid pandemic

A competition to determine Whitby’s best outdoor Christmas decorations is underway.

Not only is it encouraging residents to get into the holiday spirit, it’s also intended to help support a local charity.

A couple of mortgage brokers, Denise Laframboise and Nicolee Evans, started the Show Us Your Sparkle contest four years ago.

“I think this year people are looking for something to do and add a little bit of holiday magic back to the year, so everyone’s kind of gone even further all out this year with their lights,” said Evans.

The project includes an online map that shows all the houses taking part.

“I keep saying we were socially distanced before it was cool, because this has been safe forever — to just drive around with your family and see some cool lights,” said Laframboise.

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So far, there are 30 houses registered and over 1,000 votes already cast, and it’s not just bragging rights that are on the line.

“The homeowner gets $1,000, probably, for more lights, and the extra $1,000 goes to a charity they chose,” said Laframboise.

Twelve local businesses have stepped up to help sponsor the event.

Ken Merola has been called the Clark Griswold of his Whitby neighbourhood, a reference to the 1989 film National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, in which the character has a house festooned with holiday decorations.

“We got a little over 20,000 lights this year,” said Merola, Christmas lights fanatic.

He’s been stringing Christmas lights around his 15 Pogson Dr. property for the past 10 years.

“I just decided to go all out so there really wasn’t a plan,” said Merola.

He says every year he adds one or 2,000 lights and even with help it takes days get it all set up.

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“We’re pretty well maxed out right now, I think, so far but who knows … maybe next year we’ll add another a couple extra thousand lights,” said Merola.

This year Merola, has entered his display into the competition, wanting to share his hard work with entire community.

“Most important thing for me is to make people smile,” said Merola.

Jim Tilley won the first year of the contest. He can’t win again, but that hasn’t stopped him from entering.

“It brings all the neighbours out and I think of anyone, we need it this year more than ever,” said Tilley, Christmas lights enthusiast.

Voting ends Jan. 4 and the winner will be announced the next morning.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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