1st place - 
Matt DeVos & Steph Hennen


DeVos/Hennen win 2nd annual 'Battle of the Bulbs' Christmas lighting contest; Sanow second

After not being one of the winners in last year's "Battle of the Bulbs" Christmas Lighting Contest, the team of Matt DeVos and his girlfriend Steph Hennen decided to try again this year.
Matt and Steph discussed some ideas and came up with a few new wrinkles to their light display in 2021. The display utilized nearly every available space on their property on North Madison Street.
"Even the downspouts were covered in white lights," said one judge.
The overall display was well organized and the lights complemented the other displays such as giant snowmen faces on the garage doors.
"We didn't win last year, but that drove me to add more things and try again this year," DeVos said.
The hard work paid off as the DeVos/Hennen team were declared the winners of the second annual "Battle of the Bulbs" by the nine judges. The duo earned 165 of a possible 180 points, edging Mark Sanow of rural Minneota by just one point. DeVos and Hennen receive over $500 in prizes.
"I love decorating for Christmas," said DeVos. "When I was growing up my parents would drive us around and look at other people's lights."
DeVos and Hennen came up with an idea to put two large snowmen faces on their double-doored garage. The snowmen's eyes are black paper plates, while the mouths are made of smaller cake-sized black paper plates. The carrot noses are orange duct tape and the hats are made of wood and cardboard.
"It's a little stressful putting everything together, I'm not going to lie," DeVos laughed. "But it's kind of an addiction. I would be outside in the dark wiring things up and I would have to tell myself to go in the house because my hands were freezing. But I had a blast." Most of the electrical supplies and other materials they used on their display were purchased locally.
"I wasn't quite sure if we would win or not," DeVos said. "There were other houses that were decorated really nice."
Sanow, who lives north of Minneota, placed second in his first year entering the contest with 164 points and his prize package is worth over $250. The display at his country home had colorful lights in trees and on the house synchronized to music. A large speaker was placed in the yard blaring six traditional holiday songs.
"I've been (decorating for Christmas) for about 15 years," said Sanow. "This winter is the first year I decided to do this to music. I do most of the outdoor decorating myself. When my two daughters, Riece and Reghan Sanow, are here, they help me, too."
Sanow bought the family farm from his parents, Sylvester and Lillian Sanow.
"We used to have this roughly 30-40-foot-tall evergreen tree in the front yard and Dad would decorate that every year with lights," said Sanow. "He would put a bright white light on the very top that could be seen for miles away. From there, my love for outdoor decorating has grown."
Sanow plans to add to his display next year.
"Christmas is my favorite holiday," he said. "I'm hoping to keep adding more music and lights and setups in the future years to come."
Third place was awarded to last year's winner, Austin and Shannon Dritz of rural Taunton, who garnered 152 points in the voting. Their country home was well organized and made good use of the various colored lights. They will receive over $150 worth of prizes.
There were 15 participants in the contest this year.
Because of the generosity of the businesses donating items to be given for the prizes, the value amounts exceeded the original prize amounts of $500 for first place, $250 for second place, and $100 for third place. We also were able to add a $75 fourth-place prize, and a $50 fifth-place prize.
Fourth place went to "Peanuts" and Ali Kloos of Minneota for the second year in a row with 137 points. Lynn and Barb Okrina of Minneota received fifth place for the second straight year, this time with 128 points.
To give everyone a chance at winning something for their efforts, the other 10 contestants all had their names put in a hat, with one name selected to win a turkey for the holidays. Police Chief Bill Bolt drew the winning name of Kaitlyn Kopitski on Monday morning.
The light display judging was done on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
On a sad note, Gus and Mayra Molina, who placed second in the contest last year, had entered the contest again, but judges who chose to observe the decorated homes on Sunday were unable to view their lights because the Molinas had to travel to Texas that day following the untimely death of a family member. The voters that were able to view their display on Saturday night gave it high marks, though.

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