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Brighten Baxter announces winners

Legacy award announced as well for recognition of years of holiday cheer

Baxter Lighting contest
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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BAXTER — Brighten Baxter announced the winners of the annual lighting contest and created a new award to recognize a commitment to brighten the holiday season.

Connie Lyscio, Baxter City Council member who started Brighten Baxter, notified the winners Monday night, Dec. 19.

Brighten Baxter winners are:

  • First place — Nancy Tiegs, 14803 Wildflower Drive, 
  • Second place — Bill and Dee Bollinger, 14285 Forest Drive,
  • Third place — Joe and Anne Niklaus, 13287 Maplewood Drive. 

Thomas and Doreen Frossard, 4393 Cedar Scenic Road, and Richard Shatka, 5132 Camden Road, also took part in the contest. Shatka was the winner of the first Brighten Baxter contest in 2020 and was in second place in 2021.
Contest judges drove around and looked at each display Monday night.

Of Tiegs’ display, which has grown since her win last year, a judge described it as “a spectacular display of Christmas lights.”

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Tiegs and her daughter were out shoveling snow and brushing off displays after the recent snowstorm and the following cold has been challenging to maintain lights, but worth it, Tiegs said.

“I love it. We go out every night and walk up and down our street,” Tiegs said of other light displays in her neighborhood and along Wildflower Drive. “It’s just fun to look.”

At home, they look and plan what they’d like to do next year, what to add, move, or take down for a season. Tiegs said they added 13 things this year, including a trail and Paul Bunyan and Babe.

“It’s always nice to be in a contest,” Tiegs said. “I would do it if there was a contest or not because it’s just fun to do. I like doing it.”

Baxter Lighting contest
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Tiegs said the work takes two or three weeks to put the display together. Being able to offer a bonus of money off the electric bill is amazing, Tiegs said.

The challenge for Brighten Baxter is getting more people to participate.

Tiegs said the little community she came from with less than 5,000 people also started a light contest and made it available for anyone to nominate. Each week a few homes were listed and then people could vote online for their favorite. Later, Tiegs said, the contest created categories to be able to recognize both big and small displays.

“I think the thing that got the most people involved was the ability for people to nominate homes they saw as they drove around looking at displays,” Tiegs said.

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The only thing people won, Tiegs said, was a sign noting their win.

Legacy award

“I have also decided to recognize Richard Shatka with the Legacy Award in recognition of all the years of holiday cheer he has provided hundreds of families,” Lyscio wrote in an email announcing the winners. “I cannot even imagine the hours he has dedicated to creating and installing his displays, not to mention the money invested. He deserves our thanks and appreciation.”

“Wow,” Shatka said of learning of the legacy award. “I don’t know what to say other than, ‘Wow.’’’

Lyscio said comments from the judges included "great symmetry in design, wonderful use of space given the size of the yard and feelings of thankfulness with being reminded of the true meaning of the season.”

Bob Larson, who creates colorful hand-painted Christmas characters riding in a variety of Ford vehicles on Chippewa Street, said he wished Brainerd would also have an organization to support a lighting contest in the city.

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Cold is a known robber of battery life and with smartphones it can disrupt service causing a phone to shut off.

Larson was not alone in looking for a single site that would be able to point people in the right direction to see some of the spectacular yard displays people put up for the holiday season. Larson noted Bluff Avenue in Brainerd for a classic Christmas display amid a host of other homes where lights brighten the long, dark winter nights and lift spirits.

The Brighten Baxter holiday lighting contest ignited in 2020 during the pandemic. Lyscio was decorating her own home when she thought of the idea of getting the community involved, especially at a time when people needed an outlet both as an activity at home and a way to have a family outing. Lyscio spoke of her own memories of loading up the family vehicle and going out to see the light displays around town.

Baxter Lighting contest
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“It’s a fond memory and now in these days of trying to come up with activities that are family friendly and COVID safe, I thought this could be perfect,” Lyscio said in 2020.

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With the city council’s blessing and the help of Crow Wing Power and Brainerd Public Utilities, who gave winners a break on their electric bill, the lighting contest began and inspired a host of applicants and countless tours in early December.

The contest entries this year provide an opportunity to get out and tour the light displays and offer an opportunity for people to add a scavenger hunt as an activity and enjoy the work people put into brightening the dark winter night.

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.

Related Topics: BAXTERCROW WING POWERCHRISTMAS
Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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