MOUNTAIN IRON — We could all use a little cheer and light to brighten up a dark year overshadowed by a pandemic.

The City of Mountain Iron is doing just that via its first-ever home and business holiday lighting contest.

Perhaps you have plans to deck your house “Griswold-style,” reminiscent of the “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” movie. Or, maybe, elegant or traditional is more your taste.

Whatever the case, all homes and businesses located throughout Mountain Iron are welcome to take part in the contest, which comes with $100 prizes, to boot.

Once all entries are received, a map will be available of participating locations so families can drive around and take in the lights of the season.

So many events had to be cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and people are feeling down and removed, noted Anna Amundson, director of the Mountain Iron Public Library and events coordinator for the city.

She came up with the idea of a holiday lighting contest as a way to not only “brighten up our streets,” but to also residents’ spirits — “something for people to look forward to — an event to bring the community together.”

Not to mention, something that would be safe during the pandemic.

Eighteen residences are already registered in the contest; the deadline to sign up is Dec. 15. The route should be available to the public online (City of Mountain Iron Facebook page) by Dec. 16 or 17, and will be printed in local media outlets, Amundson said. It will simply list addresses; no personal information, she added.

Three vehicles of judges will make the rounds Dec. 18 and 19, and winners will be announced the following week at the Mountain Iron City Council meeting Dec. 21, she said.

There are four categories, with a cash prize for each. The first is a traditional or religious theme; the second is called “elegance of design” — a house that “looks really well put together,” judged on overall use of color and lighting, Amundson explained.

The third category will take into consideration a home’s “wow factor,” such as use of animation and special effects. Amundson refers to it as “Griswold full throttle” — an opportunity for residents to “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.”

The fourth category is “best in business.”

Thus far, no commercial locations have entered, but Amundson said she hopes some will since the pandemic has been a difficult time for local businesses. It’s a chance for businesses to “put a stamp on their location and say, ‘We are here.’”

Entrants do not have to pick a category when registering. Registration is available by emailing anna.amundson@alslib.info or calling 218-750-4911.

The contest is “a good way to celebrate the season — a celebration of the good old days and good old ways,” said Amundson, who remembers as a child driving around local neighborhoods with her family to view homes decked out in lights.

She recalls, in particular, a Santa displayed at the “one way in and one way out” of Mountain Iron’s Ann’s Acres.

The events coordinator said she hopes families will do the same and “make an evening of it.”

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