Annual ‘Light up the Pierre Area’ contest shining bright in 3rd year

The friendly competition allows area residents and businesses to possibly have an incentive for the hard work they put into decorating for the holidays.
The Mikkelsen family in Fort Pierre, South Dakota has gone all out in decorating for Christmas...
The Mikkelsen family in Fort Pierre, South Dakota has gone all out in decorating for Christmas for over 20 years.(Jo Mikkelsen)
Published: Dec. 24, 2021 at 3:55 PM MST
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PIERRE, S.D. - Christmas decorations are a tradition for many.

However, if you’re decorating in the Pierre area, it could be a little more than just a tradition.

The Pierre Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting it’s 3rd annual “Light Up the Pierre Area” holiday light competition. This year, there are 24 competitors, and more are participating than ever before. Those competing are vying for four different award categories. Those awards are: Best in Show, People’s Choice, The “Clark Griswold” Award for the most lights, and the Holiday Business Award.

The winner of each category will get $100 in “Pierre Pride” dollars, which amounts to a gift card that can be used in any area local business.

“You put up Christmas lights every year and it isn’t always easy,” said Pierre Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Sara Rankin. “I think this makes it feel like it is worth the effort even more so, and helps encourage spreading cheer during the holiday season.”

Getting involved is as easy as it ever has been. When you go to the Chamber’s website, you can find the interactive map of the houses and businesses participating. After seeing them, all you have to do is text the corresponding number for the house or business to (516)-253-2565, or you can vote here.

“It gives us a sense of community pride, I think that is extremely important,” said Rankin. “Not only during the holidays, but all year round.”

For many families, the chance at a $100 prize is merely an extra bonus.

“The last time my wife kind of figured it all out, it was around 50 hours to put all of the decorations up,” explained Jerry Mikkelsen.

Jerry and his wife, Jo, have participated in the competition since its inception, but have gone all out decorating for Christmas for roughly 25 years. Their house in Fort Pierre features a light display synced to Christmas music, which onlookers can listen to on the radio when they are nearby.

On nights throughout the season, the Mikkelsen’s will hand out candy canes to kids during the light show. Last year, they say they gave out roughly 1200 candy canes, and expect they will end up giving out even more this year.

Though they have claimed first place in the light competition in the past, Mikkelsen says that nothing beats seeing families line the streets to see and listen to their display.

“We wouldn’t put this up if we didn’t have people come to look at it and enjoy it, that is the best part,” Jerry said. “Having people come look at it and enjoy it is the best part.”

The competition will run through December 29th, and awards will be determined on the 30th.

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