2020 Festival of Lights

The City of Mount Vernon is bringing back the popular outdoor decorating contest as a way to get into the holiday spirit. On Dec. 12 from 5:30 to 7 pm, residents have a chance to enjoy lighting displays via a self-guided tour, grab a quick cup of cocoa at a local cafe, and help the Winter Sanctuary by donating needed supplies.

MOUNT VERNON — The return of a citywide outdoor decorating contest provides a covid-safe opportunity for families to enjoy the holiday season.

Organized by Amber Keener and Lauren Heffelfinger, the “2020 Mount Vernon Festival of Lights” features a self-guided tour where families can drive around town and view the Christmas light displays. They can also stop in at local cafes for refreshments, including Half Baked Cafe and Catering, where cookie-decorating kits will be available for purchase.

The event will take place from 5:30 to 7 pm on Saturday, Dec. 12. Maps of participating homes will be available on Dec. 10 on the Festival of Lights Facebook page.

“It will be exclusively a drive-through event at the local cafes,” explained Keener. “These businesses are using Covid precautions already and will be required to continue. It will be masked with hands sanitized between customers and cashless transactions.”

In addition to enjoying the holiday spirit, families can live out the holiday spirit by donating supplies to the Winter Sanctuary. One church in each of the city's four wards will have a collection box available.

“These boxes will be manned by volunteers from each church,” said Keener.

Once they've completed the tour, families can go online to the Festival of Lights Facebook page and vote for their favorite display. Voting ends on Dec. 13.

Residents interested in having their light display judged must register to participate by Dec. 3. The contest is open to any resident within the city limits. Displays must be ready for viewing by 5:30 pm on Dec. 12. To register and submit photos, click here.

Winners will be announced during a Facebook Live presentation on Dec. 15. Participants will only win one prize across all of the categories.

“Downtown businesses have, as usual, been enthusiastic in their response in providing donations for these prize packages,” said Keener.

Entrants can enter one of five categories. Each of the five categories will have two winners: a Ward winner and a Best of Show winner. Following are the categories and judging requirements:

Ward Winner

  • Live in one of the wards
  • Decorate for the holiday season
  • Must not be a nuisance to neighbors
  • Submit picture

Best Winner

  • Live in the city limits
  • Follow category description
  • Must not be a nuisance to neighbors
  • Submit picture

Flashy, Splashy Colorful Creation -- Colored Lights

  • Colorful Lights
  • Good use of space/yard
  • Shows holiday spirit
  • Must not be a nuisance to neighbors
  • Submit picture

Glitter and Glamour - White Light Spectacular

  • White Lights only
  • Good use of space/yard
  • Shows holiday spirit
  • Must not be a nuisance to neighbors
  • Submit picture

Big, Blowup Extravaganza - Best Inflatables Display

  • Many Inflatables
  • Good use of space/yard
  • Shows holiday spirit
  • Must not be a nuisance to neighbors
  • Submit picture

Griswold Your Palace - Best Original Design

  • Unique design
  • “Over the top” holiday decorations
  • Must have “WOW” factor
  • Must not be a nuisance to neighbors
  • Submit picture

Sights and Sounds of the season - Multimedia Exhibition

  • Incorporate more than one element (sight, sound, smell…)
  • May include technical aspect, movement, live people/animals
  • Shows holiday spirit
  • Must not be a nuisance to neighbors
  • Submit picture

When Keener presented the plans to city council members during their meeting on Monday, they were immediately on board with the idea.

“We used to do something like this,” said Councilwoman Janis Seavolt. “I think it's a great thing to bring back.”

“One of my favorite things is to drive around neighborhoods looking for lights, so I am excited,” said Council member Julia Warga.

“I think the selection of the Winter Sanctuary is a great opportunity to help them,” said Bruce Hawkins, council president and member of the Winter Sanctuary board.

“We need to find ways to have fun … to celebrate our community's ingenuity and innovation,” said Mayor Matt Starr. “We're going back to celebrating Christmas the way we used to celebrate Christmas. We're going back to our roots.”

For more information on the outdoor decorating contest, including a list of participating cafes and churches, visit 2020 Festival of Lights or email festivaloflightsmtv@gmail.com.

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