Christmas decoration winners: 'It's all about smiling faces'
Nothing like putting up Christmas decorations to bring out the inner child and put a smile on a few faces.
The city of Destin recently wrapped up its annual Holiday Outdoor Decorating Contest and announced the winners.
The city received multiple phone calls and emails pointing out locations that had done an outstanding job of decorating their property. The information was forwarded to judges who canvassed Destin and picked the best of the best, according to Catherine Card, public information officer for the city.
The winners were recognized at Monday's City Council meeting and presented a plaque and a poinsettia. Each winner also has a sign posted in front of their home or business declaring them a winner.
The winners in the various divisions were: Best Decorated Business, I'm Skewed, 529 Harbor Blvd.; Best Overall Holiday, The Murphy Family, Sea Oats Drive; Best Decorated Home, Sally Beidenharn, Mars Street; Best Decorated Organization, Chick-fil-A, 1063 U.S. Highway 98 E.; and Honorable Mention, the home off Sea Oats Drive, also known as "Candy Cane Lane."
Amy Hunter, owner of I'm Skewed in downtown Destin, said she had no idea there was a contest going on.
"We actually just did it with the kids. We had not heard there was a contest, so we are actually like surprised," Hunter said.
Hunter said they decorated their restaurant the first week of December.
"We were just decorating for the kids ... just like a family having fun decorating. We were not decorating to compete," she said.
Knowing now about the contest, Hunter said, "We wish we did more. We were surprised but we're very happy."
As for Sally Beidenharn, who won for Best Home, it's not her first time to light up the neighborhood or win the contest.
"I decorate every year," said Beidenharn who retired to Destin 26 years ago.
She won the overall award in 2013 and 2018. This year it was for best home.
"My attitude is, I don't necessarily have to win, I just love doing it," she said.
"December is my month of the year when my inner child comes out. I just enjoy watching the people drive by and the kids with smiles on their faces," Beidenharn added.
She decorates her home with help from her lawn guy, starting the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
When asked how many lights are illuminating her yard, she said, "I have no idea ... I'm sure it's in the thousands."
Although she doesn't actually hang the lights herself, she does put together all her many lighted animals that are scattered around the yard.
Two new features to her display this year include the Star of David high in a tree with shimmering lights going all the way to the ground. The other is an American flag all in lights.
However, she said, "I try to stay with just animals ... the majority are dogs," noting she likes her dogs and goes in search of a new one every year to put on display.
This year she found a dog and two puppies to add to her decorations.
But for Beidenharn, it's all about bringing joy to people.
She told how she had one woman out taking pictures on her third time driving the street.
"This was bringing my spirits up," the woman said, because she couldn't be with her family this year due to the pandemic.
"That's the whole point of it," Beidenharn said.
"I wanted to go big with it this year because of the pandemic," she said.
"And lucky for me, I'm retired and I can do this. So if someone can drive by and smile ... it's all worth it," she said.
Beidenharn said she plans to leave her decorations up until about Dec. 29.
"I love kids. I just enjoy all ages that drive by and slow down. ... I always wave," she said.
As for the Murphy family that won Best Overall, donning the lights and decorations is nothing new for them as well.
"We've been doing it for about 16 years," Andy Murphy said.
Murphy and his wife Nancy usually start the process the week after Thanksgiving, but got a late start this year because they were out of town.
But they got it done and Murphy said, "I'm tickled with the outcome ... and very excited," about the win.
The Murphys have a busy, lit-up yard, from big snowmen to a merry-go-round to an ice skating rink display.
"It's unique stuff we like to put together ourselves," he said.
"We like what we can build rather than what you can go buy. It's more exciting to pull in the driveway and see the stuff that you know no one else will have," Murphy said.
It's about a two-week process to decorate. And the electric bill? Murphy says he doesn't want to know.
Why do they continue to do it year after year?
"When you see somebody's smiling face, that's usually all it takes," he said.
"One child runs up there on that sidewalk screaming and hollering ... you're going to continue to do it. There are years I'm tired and don't want to do it, and my wife says you're going to be upset if you don't," said Murphy, who noted that she's right.
This is the fourth time for the Murphys to win for their decorations.
"We were real excited to win because it's been awhile," he said, noting the last time they won was about eight years ago.
But he's proud to be a part of Candy Cane Lane that won for honorable mention.
"We've got a great street. You may have the winning house, but it takes everybody to get it lit up," Murphy said. "It's definitely a team effort."