MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – For the last 37 years, the Marquette Board of Light and Power has hosted an annual Lighting Contest, allowing residents to deck the halls with Christmas Lights, inflatables, Christmas signs, and whatever gets them in the holiday spirit.

“We have three categories that you can place in this year,” Matthew Zavislak, Lighting Contest Coordinator at Marquette Board of Light and Power said. “You have the People’s Choice, the Shiras Tree Award, and Judges Choice.”

But for some participants, the awards are just an added bonus.

Gary & Mary Beth Bell
1201 Tierney Street

“The big thing is when the kids come up and you see them enjoy it and they tell you how much they enjoy it,” Gary Bell, A 2021 Lighting Contest Judges Choice Winner said.

Bell has been participating in this contest for 36 years and is the longest-running participant in the contest. His display requires 120 hours of setup time and includes around 40,000 lights.

“It started really small, it was basically just lights on the house and then it expanded to the yard and then it kept expanding more and more and this year I even borrowed some of my neighbor’s bushes to put it some more display lights,” Bell said.

Situated across the street from Bothwell Middle School, Bell’s display isn’t just lighting the way down Tierney Street at night.

“I have been turning on the lights for the students in the mornings for about the last 10 years and I get a lot of reaction from the students telling me that they like coming to school and seeing the Christmas lights being on, ” Bell said.

“So we keep bringing this back every year for the community,” Zavislak said. “All of the wonderful people that put on the fantastic displays and all of the friends, families, and organizations that do the self-guided tours. Our ability to bring those two things together, that is exactly why we do this every year.”

Bell’s yard and house exterior is filled with twinkly lights, festive inflatables, and more but he says one display stands out among them all.

“My Blue Spruce!” Bell said. “It is 16-foot Blue Spruce and I have been keeping it that size for the last 10 years. It’s got about 4,000 lights on it and it takes me about 7 hours to finish the display.”

After hours of hard work, these winners receive more than just bragging rights for their spectacular displays.

“If you place in any of these three categories what you will receive is a hand-curated basket made by Michigan Made with all U.P. products, a 2021 Marquette Board of Light and Power Lighting Contest Blue Ribbon sign, and also last but not least a beautifully put together plaque from Quick Trophy right here in town,” Zavislak said.

For a full driving route of the 2021 MBLP Lighting Contest, click here.

For more information on the MBLP Lighting Contest, click here.