Three trips, dozens of miles and thousands of lights later, we are happy to present the winner and “Best in Show” entries of our 2012 Holiday Lights Display Contest.
A total of 67 houses entered in the contest, which accepted online nominations from Nov. 17 through Dec. 5. The judges narrowed the field down to 12 finalists to visit in person so we could experience the full effects of the decorations.
To develop a benchmark, we decided to critique the houses on a 10-point scale in five main categories: first impression, originality, theme, brightness and audio.
In the end, one display stood out above the rest – not just because it garnered the most points from the judges,
but because the owners dazzled us with plain old holiday spirit.
Jason and Elizabeth Powers won our grand prize pack: an autographed photo of Frank Beamer, dinner for two at Beamer’s 25 restaurant, two movie tickets and a $50 gas card. The package is valued at $500.
Thanks to everyone who sent in their stunning displays of hard work and holiday cheer. Use our guide to take your own tour of lights, or start with these must-sees.
WINNER: Jason and Elizabeth Powers
4029 Maine Ave., Roanoke
Santa will be greeting folks from 6:30 to 9 p.m. daily up to Christmas Eve.
Welcome to Santa’s vacation home.
This is the second year that Jason and Elizabeth Powers have dressed up their northwest Roanoke house for the holidays.
The house, located a few blocks off Melrose Avenue, now features more than 14,000 lights and 29 inflatables.
Fellow judge Matt Ames and I found the Powers in their front lawn, waving merrily, as if expecting us. Elizabeth was decked out in a red and green elf costume, complete with curly toes and bells.
After introducing ourselves as judges for the contest, Jason turned to Elizabeth in horror.
“I knew I should’ve worn my Santa costume!”
The Powers began their annual routine on Dec. 7. They come home from work and get dressed for their second “job” at night – greeting families as Santa and an elf between 6:30 and 9 p.m. every night until Christmas.
“We don’t have any kids, so we like to do it for all the kids around,” said Jason, 27. “We plan to not have children for several years.”
The Powers’ lights and blow-up decorations pull a nightly audience. They said they had to upgrade their 80 amp circuit electrical system to a 200 amp system to make it through the holidays.
“Last year, we maxed it out so we had to install more circuit breakers this year,” said Elizabeth, 25.
They estimate their holiday collection to be $7,000 to $10,000 worth of lights, extension cords and inflatables, including reindeer, snowmen, penguins, Snoopy, Hello Kitty, SpongeBob, the red M&M, a 12-foot high Santa Claus and a 15-foot high hot air balloon.
“This isn’t about showing off what the Powers have; this is about the kids and making them happy at Christmas,” Jason said.
Their display and spirit impressed one fan so much that Jason inspired a “secret Santa.” Last year, he was chatting with a woman admiring the lights out front and mentioned he’d love to dress up as Santa someday.
“I came home the next day and there was a Santa outfit on my front steps,” he said. “She didn’t leave any of her information.”
But recently, while Santa was out, one little boy was very adamant about having one question answered: Why is Santa living in Roanoke when he should be in the North Pole?
This jolt of logic led the Powers to refer to their glowing property as Santa’s vacation home.
Congratulations to Jason and Elizabeth Powers!
“See It from Space” Award: Raymond Jones
7051 Back Creek Road, Boones Mill
5 to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 5 to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Driving on Back Creek Road into Boones Mill at night feels a bit like the beginning of a D-list horror movie. The silent darkness gobbled up my high beams and, as a New York driver, I was wary of the bumpy, winding road.
Matt and I ran out of things to talk about back on U.S. 220 and I was pretty sure we made a wrong turn somewhere.
Then suddenly – lights! Lots of them. Lights of every color.
First we saw just one hill covered with them, then another, and soon we were close enough to see all six shimmering acres. The display was large enough to drive through – you start by going up the driveway with lighted arches.
“This…is magical,” Matt whispered.
Raymond Jones’ Boones Mill house drew high marks across the board except for audio, which it didn’t offer. But it set a high standard for what would impress us afterward.
“North Pole” Award: Charles and Pat Hartman
949 Page St., Salem
5 to 10 p.m. every day
This house waged industrial-strength competition for the “See It from Space” Award.
Charles and Pat Hartman’s North Pole-themed house stuffed a jaw-dropping amount of decorations and lights in their yard, including an inflatable reindeer stable and rotating Ferris wheel.
As we drove away, the house blinded me via my rearview mirrors. No wonder – the Hartmans say they’ve covered their home with more than 50,000 lights.
“Best Theme” Award: Tony and Candice Kapranos
108 Nolen Road, Christiansburg
5 to 11 p.m. every night
There are a whole lot of Hokie fans out there, but we’re not sure how many are like Tony and Candice Kapranos, who cover their house with their college spirit.
The lawn’s candy cane border led the way to a giant Hokie inflatable. A little reindeer rode a ski lift on one side of the house.
Fellow judge Travis Williams appreciated how a large, lit-up “VT” covered both sides of the roof.
“Best Audio/Visual” Award: Paul Salvey
3260 Longhorn Road, Roanoke
6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday
Paul Salvey described his house on our website as “An IT guy, a bunch of LED lights and two singing faces. Come see our house dance to the beat and sing for you!”
He’s not joking. While there are not many lights on this house, the pumpkin faces in the windows sing along to various songs, including “Gangnam Style,” if you’re into that kind of thing. (Fellow judge Kathy Lu was; she said she wanted “to dance with the house” when the song came on.) The house’s other lights are also set to the beats of the songs.
You get the music on your car radio by tuning to 107.7 FM, which showed serious consideration for the neighbors’ sanity. Check it out on YouTube by searching “Lights on Longhorn.”