WEST PITTSTON — Christmas has come and gone, but its spirit still lived for a few days longer thanks to help from West Pittston Tomorrow.
The group held its first-ever Christmas decorating contest that asked all borough homes and businesses to express their Christmas spirit and creativity by decorating their properties to the best of their ability.
Homes were judged by West Pittston Tomorrow members from Dec. 26 through Dec. 30 and winners were announced under three categories — Traditional Home Decorating, Whimsical Home Decorating and Business Decorating.
“Traditional, we were looking for more of a traditional style like a more conforming style,” said Ellen Quinn, president of West Pittston Tomorrow. “It didn’t have to be lights and wreaths because I don’t want to dictate what needs to be done. Whimsical of course was more lighthearted and playful and I think that’s what whimsical really is.”
Judy Stevenson, 69, won for traditional while Clay Carlos, 50, won for whimsical and the Ballyhoo — Purveyors of Fine Ice Cream shop won best business. Each winner received a gift card for Agolino’s Restaurant.
Each category had a first and second place winner with traditional and whimsical focusing on resident homes and the business category focusing on the best decorated business building.
Quinn said her and the West Pittston Tomorrow members all convened and voted on the houses and businesses and that every decorated residence and business was a candidate.
“It was our first year to do this and next year we may have people nominate their own homes or go to our website and let us know they want to be included,” she said. “We included everybody in town and I drove these streets every night looking at houses that would be contenders.”
The full list of winners, including second place winners and honorable mentions can be found on the West Pittston Tomorrow website.
Best Traditional Decor
Judy Stevenson’s home on Luzerne Avenue won best traditional house, and she said it was really her son Ian, 38, who did the work.
Features on the house included wreaths on the windows and white lights around the trees and bushes.
Decorating for Christmas was always something Judy’s late husband did before he passed, and Ian wanted to keep the tradition going.
“It started with my dad,” he said. “We lost him last January and he started the tradition years ago in keeping with the white lights for the Victorian theme of our house. We kept adding onto that concept over the years. There’s a tree on our front porch and that was something that was started when my mom was a child and we brought that back.”
Ian said decorating the house was a team effort between him and his mom, and that he did the decorating while she told him where to put things.
Ian admitted that although the house gets decorated every year, he stepped it up a little bit for the Christmas decorating contest by adding more lights and putting the tree on his mom’s front porch.
Winning best traditional house contest meant a lot to Judy because of the family effort.
“I was thrilled for myself but also for my son,” she said. “He spent a lot of time doing this and I was really happy for him.”
Best Whimsical Decor
Carlos’s residence on Philadelphia Avenue won first place in the whimsical category as it displayed red, green and white lights wrapped around trees and an archway, a light-up snowman, wreaths on the windows, a cutout of Santa Claus and wooden reindeer.
Carlos lives in the house with his friend Mike Kunselman and Mike’s parents ever since he moved to West Pittston from New Jersey in 2009.
The concept of decorating for Christmas, Carlos said, was because of the flood of 2011.
“The first year we had the house we had fully renovated it and then the flood came and we’re the last house to be flooded,” he said. “We had the basement and first floor flooded, and we re-renovated everything and our goal was to get back in before Christmas. That year we had a big Santa made and put it in the front yard and it asked Santa to drop all the presents for the other neighbors at our house as a joke that our neighbors got a kick out of. That started the whole decorating for Christmas thing.”
Carlos said the hardest part about decorating was getting on a ladder to decorate the trees as he is not fond of heights, as well as the archway leading up to the house.
Despite being named the winner of the best whimsical category, Carlos said he was unaware of the Christmas decorating contest until after he was named the winner.
“I really did not know anything about the contest,” he said. “Our house was up and decorated before Thanksgiving… I was actually in shock when we won. I completely forgot about the contest and was in total shock. I wasn’t expecting anything at all.”
Best Business Decor
Robert, 43, and Valerie Schultz, 37, opened Ballyhoo — Purveyors of Fine Ice Cream at 128 Luzerne Ave. in 2012 and sell various flavors of ice cream and multiple styles of candy.
The couple likes to decorate their business every holiday season which includes Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day as well as Christmas.
The building had tinsel and Christmas knick-knacks all along the landing right below the ceiling around the eating area, all of which Valerie said was collected over the years.
A giant wreath hung in the middle of the dining area, and it had an extra special meaning to Valerie and her husband.
“A lot of the ornaments on the wreath are handmade by kids in the neighborhood,” she said. “We have a contest in which they bring in ornaments, we hang them from the wreath and we keep them and we’ll put them back up next year. Every year we’ll have more and more ornaments from the kids from the neighborhood.”
One of the benefits going into the Christmas decorating contest was that Valerie and Robert were able to put in more window decorations thanks to the expansion project they are currently undergoing, which Valerie said is nearing completion.
Although a small business, Valerie expressed gratitude for the recognition from West Pittston Tomorrow.
“We’re just happy that people appreciate what we’re doing here,” she said. “We want to decorate as much as possible for every holiday and we’ll continue to do so.”
First contest was 1954
According to Quinn, the first West Pittston Christmas decorating contest was held in 1954 and sponsored by the West Pittston Police Pension Fund Association.
There were three categories: Nativity, Christmas scenes, and light display.
Winners of each category were the Oblates of St. Joseph on Susquehanna Avenue for Nativity; Dr. Joseph Miller of Susquehanna Avenue and Mrs. Charles Barone of Montgomery Avenue for Christmas scenes; and James Walker on Franklin Street for light display.
Quinn said she hoped that by bringing a Christmas decorating contest back to West Pittston, it would brighten up the borough and bring the spirit of Christmas to everyone.
“The goal for this contest was to help with Christmas spirit in town and I think it did because of the number of homes that we thought increased from last year in decorating,” she said. “We had a difficult time picking winners, but we will continue this next year and hopefully have more ideas for next year.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher