MARION — Santa Claus, reindeer, sleighs, stars, candles and candy canes have popped up all over Marion in the last few weeks as businesses and homes competed in a holiday decoration contest that sparked a burst of Christmas scenes and elaborate light displays to illuminate downtown businesses and homes throughout the village.

The Marion Chamber of Commerce sponsored a “Hometown Christmas” competition to encourage more residents and business owners to deck their homes and storefronts in a gala show of holiday spirit.

“It’s a way to promote the town and surrounding area and let people know what we have to offer here in Marion,” said chamber president Anndrea McCrimmon. “It will hopefully draw people here and then they will see what the town’s all about. The contest is for both businesses and houses, and will help add to the Christmas spirit.”

Linda Bigford, owner of A Beauty Connection, transformed her window on Main Street into a delightful old-fashioned vignette with Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves, surrounded by ornaments and gifts, busily decorating the family tree.

“I always decorate my window for every holiday or special occasion and people wait every year to see what will be in the window,” Bigford said. “People seem to like it and comment on it. My friend Dee Jenkins helps and we do it to brighten the town and to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.”

Flemming’s Clothing has had a storefront on Main Street for 53 years. “We participated in the contest because we like to have our town look festive and Christmassy,” said Janet Flemming. “If our town looks festive, people will want to come and look around.”

For fourteen years Christie Prielipp has operated the popular Christie’s Potting Shed and Florist on South Mill Street (M-66). “It’s an awesome idea to have the contest,” said Prielipp. “Years ago, everyone decorated and now this contest has boosted the Christmas spirit. I’m so glad we’re doing it again.”

Area residents were invited to pick up a map showing the location of competing stores and homes, tour the area, choose their favorite and cast a ballot at one of the downtown businesses.

Voting ended Saturday, and the winners were announced by McCrimmon.

The grand prize winners are Harold and Lisa Johnson who won $100 and a family portrait courtesy of Entity Photography.

Second place and a prize of $75 go to Wendell and Tonia Schwab. “We’ve been living in Marion for three years,” said Tonia. “We do it for the community and we like to see people smile. We decorate every year and we like to do something different every year. The contest will help get more lights in town and that’s a good thing.”

The third place prize of $50 goes to Jim Welch.

Everyone is welcome to pick up a map of “Hometown Christmas” contest locations at McCrimmons Farm & Feed on North Mill Street (M-66) and enjoy a festive drive around Marion to see all the decorations and lights, including the prize-winning entries. The map is also posted on the chamber website, www.marionmichigan.com.