Residents, businesses get ready for holiday decorating contest


by Jana Mackin

Contributing Writer

A live oak with a nose job has sent neighbors all a twitter about the festive entrant in this year’s Wrightsville Beach holiday decorating contest. This unusual oak belongs in the front lawn of the Bendjy family, who have joyously festooned their Christmas tree. They join local residences and businesses throughout Wrightsville Beach in the town’s fifth annual decorating contest, which will be judged Tuesday, Dec. 19.

What were once beach bungalows and hang-ten houses have transformed into Currier and Ives postcards of cherry-cheeked Santas, jingle-bell sleighs and, of course, reindeer.

“That’s Rudolph,” said Bailey Bendjy, 7. She points out the family tree decorated as part of their holiday traditions. Each year, they strategically place a red ball on the tree, drape it with festive lights. Then presto-chango: Rudolph, the red nose reindeer.

“He pulls the sleigh,” she said. “He lights the way.”

The Bendjy family with the tree decorated to look like Rudolph. Photo by Jana Mackin.

Lighting up the island is the goal of this holiday contest now in its fifth year. The contest promotes community wide holiday joy, light and beauty in this judged event. Any Wrightsville Beach residence or business is eligible to participate with prizes awarded in such categories as Most Holiday Spirit, Best Holiday Lighting, Most Creative, Most Traditional, Best Overall Residence and Best Overall Business with a Dec. 19 noon deadline for registration. Each year, some 20 entrants participate in this event sponsored by Harbor Island Garden Club, the Wrightsville Beach Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee and the Wrightsville Beach Parks & Recreation Department.

The more the merrier, officials said.

“You’re going to decorate anyway,” said Katie Ryan, recreation program supervisor for Wrightsville Beach Parks and Recreation. “Why not enter for a chance to win a basket of goodies, trophy and bragging rights?”

For two years, Brandon Wicklund, bartender, has transformed the King Neptune Restaurant into an illuminate plum pudding par excellence with a distinct beach vibe.

“I wanted to bring lights to the town and the Christmas spirit,” he said. “Otherwise, they would have sat in my garage.”

This year features more than 20,000 Christmas lights inside and out. Inside is a Winter Wonderland theme with two areas designed for photo spots. Five new inflatables have been added including a fish taco truck in honor of the restaurant’s taco Tuesdays, Wicklund said, who has helped Sweetwater Surf Shop and Vito’s Pizzeria get lights on their building, as well as helping hang the wreath on Jimmy’s at Red Dogs. He also started hashtag #LightUpLumina to fuel the Christmas buzz.

“The hashtag #LightUpLumina is something I created to catch people’s attention about Wrightsville Beach and get them involved,” he said. “We want this to be a display that everyone will enjoy.

We want to bring our community together whether it’s Christmas lights or people helping each other out,” Wicklund said. “The draw isn’t really about the contest. It is about our community coming together strong and spreading joy and smiles to the people that support our businesses. This year #LightUpLumina truly looks like a Hallmark staple when you are walking the street and it’s all because we supported each other this year.”

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