John and Sharon Hampshire take their holiday decorating to the next level – and doing so won them first place in Cottleville’s Holiday Light competition this year.
The couple, who lives on Hwy. N, has won the coveted title several times for the brightly lit and creative display that stretches all the way to their next door neighbor’s home.
What started out 25 years ago with a few inflatables and strings of lights, has grown into a winter wonderland of more than 30,000 lights hanging from the roof, strung in the trees and bushes and outlining the yard. Several Santa Claus inflatables bounce in the wind, and white reindeers prance across the yard. A nativity scene glows on the side of the home.
It takes two weeks for the Hampshires to completely set up the holiday display, starting before Thanksgiving.
But what really set the Hampshires’ light display apart from their competition is the couple themselves. Since 2004, the couple has become a part of the display – taking on the personae of Santa and Mrs. Claus. The couple waves to passersby from the driveway while Christmas music plays. Sometimes drivers also can catch a few elves – the grandchildren – getting in on the fun.
The live aspect of the display was the deciding factor for judges Alderman John Stiles and his 18-year-old daughter Emma; Cottleville Mayor Jim Hennessey and Cottleville Police Chief Scott Lewis who went in search of the biggest, best and most spirited holiday light display.
“John has a great spread all along Hwy. N,” said Stiles. “But dressing as Santa and Mrs. Claus is a true commitment.”
Coming in a very close second place were Bill and Julie Arras who utilized more than 130 extension cords to create a Winter Wonderland in their Dardenne Farms neighborhood.
Jay and Babbs Vogelsang took third place, and the Columbus Point subdivision earned an honorable mention for the most holiday spirit. Stiles said more than 80 percent of the homes in Columbus Point were decorated for the holidays.
While the $100 gift certificate to The Rackhouse Winery in Cottleville for first place is appreciated, John said it’s not about the prize or recognition.
“We just do it because we enjoy doing it,” John said. “(I do it) for my wife. This is her season.”