For Jeffery Lawnicki, winning the Daily Herald's Holiday Lights Contest was all about earning bragging rights in his Hampshire subdivision.
Lawnicki, 19, has been in charge of putting up his family's lights display since he was 13, quietly competing with other homes within the Triple Oaks Farm subdivision. In his opinion, the family's house is the best of the bunch.
But now that he's won the contest and has the deluxe snow blower to prove it, he has finally received validation for his hard work.
“The Christmas spirit inspires me, and then I always try to be the best in the subdivision as well,” Lawnicki said. “I get compliments from the neighbors and then the kids always like it, too.”
This year, the contest, limited to registered members of the paper's website, attracted 69 entries.
The paper accepted submissions from Nov. 23 through Dec. 9. Online voting started Dec. 10 and ended Sunday, with 60,000 votes cast.
The person responsible for the design with the most votes won a snow blower worth more than $800. Wintrust Community Banks sponsored the contest.
Lawnicki, a business student at Elgin Community College, has been involved in the family light displays since he was 7.
Back then, it was a family affair that mostly involved him and his father, but his two brothers and his mother also helped out.
Six years ago, Lawnicki told his father he wanted to carry on the family tradition alone.
“For some reason, he just loves to decorate and I handed it to him — it's one of his passions, to decorate,” the elder Lawnicki said. “There's a lot of people that really don't do it anymore. Some houses are dark. It's just to keep the spirit up.”
The Lawnicki house is anything but dark.
The display includes 15 candy canes, four animated reindeer, a Christmas tree and snowman — all in lights. The bushes and the front trees are dripping in lights as well, and Lawnicki estimates there are 10,000 lights total.
To keep it fresh, Lawnicki changes things up every year.
This year, he used a string of lights to separate the windows in half and added holiday figures to each half. Those figures included stars, snowmen, reindeer and angels.
He's figuring out how to outdo himself next year.
“Maybe I'll add more reindeer,” Lawnicki said. “ ... Maybe I'll add a manger next year, because that's the real meaning of Christmas.”
• An interactive map with addresses for all contest entries can be found at http://bit.ly/URMiezCopyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.