Merry & Bright Holiday Home Challenge registration open through Nov. 23

COOKEVILLE – It’s all about the wow factor – that initial reaction when a spectacular holiday display catches the eye of passersby on a night drive at Christmastime.

Merry. Bright. Magical. 

Locals with a knack for transforming their homes and lawns into these whimsical wonderlands are encouraged to participate in the fifth annual Merry and Bright Holiday Home Challenge presented by Cookeville Leisure Services and the Upper Cumberland Association of Realtors. It’s an opportunity to not only win cash prizes up to $100 but to be included in a Tour of Lights map that will be shared with the community.

“Every year it seems that people are wondering where to see Christmas lights,” Sally Herren, Leisure Services recreation programmer, said. “The wonderful thing about participating in this contest is your house gets put on our Tour of Lights map for everyone to see.”

The Merry and Bright Holiday Home Challenge is an exterior decorating contest for single-family residences in Putnam County within an approximate 10-mile radius of the Cookeville Courthouse Square. Registration is open through Nov. 23 at 4:30 p.m. and may be completed HERE. Judging will take place Dec. 2-5.

“I look forward to this contest each season,” Carol Glover of UCAR said. “This display of lights brings families so much joy and togetherness.”

Participants may compete in up to four categories at $10 per entry:

– Classic Christmas (Traditional wreaths, garland, clear or gold-tinted lights, or touches of red and green. Evokes nostalgia.)

– Merry and Bright (Lightshows and animatronics. A Christmas feel with the brains of technology.)

– Holly Jolly (Santa, snowmen, candy canes – all the things that make Christmas jolly, fun and cute.)

– Griswold Award (Outrageously festive and bright with Christmas lights galore.)

Winners in the Classic Christmas, Merry and Bright and Holly Jolly categories will receive $100 for first place and $50 for second place. The Griswold Award winner will get $100.

The best newcomer to the contest will be recognized as well – and awarded $100.

“Some of the homes that enter the contest every year add more to their displays to stay competitive,” Herren said. “The Newcomer Award gives newbies a chance to win a prize.”

What are the judges looking for?

“When we pull up to a house that has entered the contest, we want to go ‘Ooooh!’ and ‘Ahhh!’” Herren said. “We love to see a lot of lights and decorations.”

The community will pick a winner as well. Photos of all entries will be included in a People’s Choice social media contest Dec. 6-10 on the Cookeville Leisure Services Department Facebook page. The winner will receive $50.

Libby Capps of UCAR said the contest brings back memories from years ago when Cookeville neighborhoods would decorate and encourage people to visit. 

“I always look forward to Christmas in this area, and the Merry and Bright Holiday Home Challenge gives us another chance to enjoy lights and Christmas cheer,” she said.

The free Tour of Lights map will be available for the community in early December at the Cookeville Municipal Building and

“Each year it becomes more special as the number of homes on the Tour of Lights increases,” Herren said. “One of my family traditions is to drive around town and see the Christmas lights.”

A Christmas scavenger hunt will be incorporated into the Tour of Lights, with clues on the map.

“Cookeville is a growing community,” Herren added. “As more people move here, they look for fun holiday festivities to participate in. I hope everyone goes out to enjoy the Tour of Lights this year and see all the hard work the contestants put into making their homes merry and bright.”

For more information about the Merry and Bright Holiday Home Challenge and Tour of Lights, call 526-7393 or 520-4386.

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