By Richard Taylor
Hurricane Dorian may have severely damaged islanders’ homes and businesses but not its Christmas spirit as witnessed by yard displays set up for this year’s Holiday Lights Celebration.
“There were not a lot of lights,” said Helena Stevens, executive director of the Ocracoke Civic & Business Association, who sponsors the event, in a phone interview after the Dec. 14 judging, acknowledging far fewer decorations compared to previous years.
But, a new category – The Griswold Award — added new interest in the contest.
Chrissy O’Neal, tucked away on Bryant Lane off Lighthouse Road, won the new award for the most dazzling display on the island, with her house, porch, yard and fence adorned in white and colored lights.
The Griswold Award acknowledges the 1989 “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” comedy classic in which Chevy Chase plays Clark Griswold, a man obsessed with creating the most “over-the-top” holiday display in town.
“We thought it would be fun to add a new category for extra brilliance and bling,” wrote OCBA Events Coordinator Sara Teaster in a press release.
The Pony Island Motel on Irvin Garrish Highway picked up the Best Business award for their dramatic rendition of the “Ocracoke Strong” slogan, prominently spelled out in colorful Christmas Lights across their pool fence. This display features a facsimile of the Ocracoke Lighthouse in white lights with its lighted beacon on top.
The Beach House on Irvin Garrish Highway across from the post office won Most Traditional.
Bobby and Allison O’Neal’s expansive, lot-wide display on O’Neal Lane in Oyster Creek picked up Best Theme. Most Original went to David and Kathy O’Neal on Lighthouse Road. Both have won in previous years.
Although noting that there were fewer judging opportunities this year, Stevens said, “It was not a requirement to (sign up for the contest). It was just a way for the judges to find the houses. In the past, there were nice displays, but we didn’t always know who the owners were.”
Winners receive the glory of winning–and a sign for their yards while the displays are up.
Teaster advised display watchers to look for new, homemade award yard signs this year created by the Ocracoke School children in the afterschool program.
Given all the challenges faced by islanders in the three months since the hurricane on Sept. 6, Teaster was pleased that many were still able to decorate their houses to herald in the Christmas season.
“I must say that each pop of color and strand of lovingly displayed lights and decorations are all winners in my book,” she wrote. “Your time and efforts have brought joy and sparkle to our beautiful village.”
Stevens also appreciated efforts made by Trudy Austin on her Loop Road rental cottage since her house on Lighthouse Road, which she always decorates, had been flooded in Dorian.
“It was great that her spirit was still there, especially with the hardship she’s encountered,” Stevens said. “That’s truly what “Ocracoke Strong” means — persevering through all of the aftermath from Dorian.”