4 Costa Mesa families named winners in revived holiday decorating contest

A handful of local Costa Mesa business leaders joined forces in recent weeks to renew a forgotten holiday home-decorating competition once celebrated decades ago, drawing several dozen entries that were considered by judges on Friday night.

In the 1950s and 60s, the Intercity Yule Contest was an annual citywide event, with trophies awarded and newspaper recognition given to the big winners. This year’s contest creator, Kendra Fisher, asked the Daily Pilot last month to help get the word out that she hoped to revive the old tradition.

Santa poses with the Doyle family who won Best Theme, “SantaGoneFishing,” for the Costa Mesa Home Decorating Contest during the awards party held Saturday at Neat Coffee.

(Susan Hoffman)

“After the article ran, we got so many submissions,” said Fisher, a new member of the Torrelli Realty team who learned about the previous contest when she was cleaning out her grandfather’s garage and found news clippings. “Submissions have been sent to me the last few weeks and people have also signed up in person at Neat Coffee [in Costa Mesa]. We’ve had about 50 submissions.”

Among the judges who drove through the community Friday night to check out the entries were Stefanie D’Alesssandro representing Sift Bakery in Costa Mesa, Jaclyn Sanchez of MOXI3 Fitness studio, Neat Coffee’s owner Ally Garvin, Chelsea Freeman of the UPLIFT Foundation, as well as Fisher and her grandfather, John O’Brien, the proud winner of more than one annual trophy in the old Intercity Yule Contest.

Most Creative went to Toni Elliott, seated with her grandchildren Brooklyn and Rigley during Saturday's awards party.

Most Creative went to Toni Elliott, shown seated with her grandchildren Brooklyn and Rigley during Saturday’s home decorating awards party at Neat Coffee.

(Susan Hoffman)

On Saturday night during its movie night intermission, Neat Coffee hosted the holiday home-decorating awards party with popcorn and hot cocoa. Trophies were presented to the winners along with “Winner” signs to be displayed in their frontyards. Gift certificates were also donated by Newport Rib Co., El Ranchito and Descanso restaurants.

The winners of the four categories were:

Best Overall: Morgan Family, 252 Sierks Street.

Best Theme: Doyle Family, 3134 Barbados Street.

Most Creative: Elliott Family, 2060 Continental Ave.

Brightest Lights: Bahena family, 1070 Townhouse Drive.

Kendra Fisher, Ally Garvin, Rachel Katzerman, Stephanie D'allessandro present award for "Best Lights" to the Bahena family.

Kendra Fisher, from left, Ally Garvin, Rachel Katzerman and Stephanie D’allessandro present the award for Best Lights to Earvin, Nicole and baby Logan Bahena.

(Susan Hoffman)

“I saw the Daily Pilot article and thought it might be kind of fun,” said Costa Mesa native Linda Morgan.” I like anything that has Costa Mesa history. We’re honored to have been chosen as Best Overall.”

Morgan and her husband, Terry, started out slowly decorating their house, also known as the “tree house,” which has evolved over the last five years. This season they have been working on the set up since Thanksgiving.

“There’s no theme to decorating, mostly random stuff,” said Morgan. “There’s a vintage blow-mold 5-foot Santa and a dummy -board snowman attached to a tree, a life-sized hard-plastic goat called Sir William, or ‘Billy’ for short. There’s vertical lights or whatever we feel like doing.”

Toni Elliott, whose house won Most Creative, thought it was the cutest thing ever. “This is the first prize that I won in my whole life,” she said.

Susan Hoffman is a contributor to the Daily Pilot.

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