Veterans and newcomers are taking up the challenge to decorate in this year’s 4KQ Christmas Lights competition. Rachel Quilligan sets out to meet some of them.
Walter and Beverley Wood of Kenmore have been entering the 4KQ Christmas Lights competition for 26 years and are true pioneers of this Christmas tradition.
“Christmas has always been a wonderful thing for us right from when we were little,” says Walter. “Christmas lights have been a passion and a hobby ever since 1976 when we went over to America and saw our first Christmas in the
States in the snow with all the houses decorated.
“We came back determined to put up a few coloured lights in Brisbane and that’s when we started – 1977.”
They then entered the competition in 1988 and won a ‘Highly Commended’ title with only a hundred bulbs.
“We just had the big 30-watt coloured party lights in the beginning … then the little white fairy lights started to appear in the late 80s, and in the early 90s a little bit of colour started to appear and it’s progressively gone from there,” says Walter. “Now we have roughly 75,000, but it’s hard to count with the rope lights and LEDs that don’t tell you the amount of bulbs.”
Walter and Beverley have won ‘Best Residential Display’ for their area 21 times but say they always focus on outdoing themselves rather than worrying about the competition.
“It’s a hobby and we plan and think about it all year,” says Walter. “People often come up and give us a bottle of wine and say how much we’ve meant to their family over the years – because some families are into their third generation, they came as kids, then had kids of their own who also came, and now some of their kids are coming too!”
See Walter and Beverley’s lights from Thursday 4 December at 10 Warunda Street, Kenmore.
After putting up lights for a few years, new entrant Alan Boulton of Hamilton has finally been convinced to enter the competition by neighbours and friends.
“I got talked into it this year,” he says. “I do it for the kids and the neighbourhood – I dress up as Santa Clause and the kids come around and get bags of lollies.
“I’ve had a lot of comments on it and as far as I know photos have gone to China, Japan, Norway, Sweden, New Zealand, England and Poland, because everyone stops and takes photos. “One lady gave me $50 for the power bill
This year’s display is a bit of an extra challenge for Alan. “It’s a little bit harder this year because I had a slight accident earlier in the year – I cut my thumb off!” he says. “It’s a bit difficult but I’m getting there. It takes me about two months to put up the lights … but only five days to take them down.”
See Alan’s lights from Thursday 4 December at 6 Oxford Street, Hamilton.
The people of Everard Street in Westlake bond together to make the Christmas dream come alive in their neighbourhood by entering the competition as a group.
Resident Laurie Cole says it’s something that has been happening for quite some time, but they only started entering the official competition in the last couple of years.
“The street has been doing it for about 12 or 13 years now,” he says. “It’s an opportunity to have a street gathering on the last Sunday, which everyone’s invited to. It’s a social thing.”
Laurie says it creates great atmosphere in the area as everyone is “in it together”. “It’s judged on everyone as a whole and not individuals,” he says. “So everyone can enter just as the neighbourhood and that thought of ‘I’m not up to standard’ doesn’t matter.
“We send out a flyer letting everyone know we’re entering as a neighbourhood and the entry details, then whoever does it, does it.”
But a little bit of friendly competition between neighbours is inevitable says Laurie. “There’s probably about half a dozen of us that go a wee bit overboard,” he says. “Keeping up with the neighbours—not officially of course—it is hard to keep finding the disposable income to keep up with each other!”
The spirit of Christmas is strong in Westlake it seems.
“There’s an elderly couple who were the first people to move into the street and they’re now unable to do the lights even though they used to,” says Laurie. “So a couple of us take what we’ve got left over and decorate their house for them.”
See the ‘Westlake Wonderland’ from Thursday 4 December at Everard Street, Westlake.
Ellison Specialised Properties has prime position for spreading Christmas cheer to commuters. The 50-metre frontage facing the M1 was just perfect for a festive display says Ruth Ellison.
“We thought the first year that we bought it ‘What an amazing opportunity to put up Christmas lights’ because all the traffic that’s stopped has nothing to look at,” she says. “It went really well the first year; people were emailing and calling up, thanking us and saying how sad they were when we took it down.” It’s a big investment for the company but Ruth says they love being able to do something for the community.
“We probably spend about $10,000 each year changing things and improving and I’m not sure we get it back in business,” she says. Jim Ellison adds that each time they won the
small business category they donated the prize money to charity.
“The first year we donated to the Wesley Research Institute and for the second year we donated to the Queensland Cancer Council,” he says. Ruth adds that her own personal battle with illness inspired their donation goal for this year. “Tumours are the greatest killer of children in Australia, and I didn’t realise that,” she says.
“So if we can pull it off again this year we’ll be making the donation back towards brain tumour research.”
Lights best seen from the M1, but to visit Ellison Specialised Properties head to 7/15 Henry Street Loganholme. Lights will be lit from 4 December.
How to enter:
Don’t miss your chance to enter the 4KQ Christmas Lights competition for 2014! There are ten categories to choose from and entries close Wednesday 19 November at 12pm. To enter, register your details online at www.4kq.com.au .