More than 15 years ago, Sweetwater Commissioner Prisca Barreto toured her city searching for the holiday spirit, but she didn’t find it because there weren’t any decorations.
In an effort to boost residents’ spirits and inspire them to decorate, she started the Christmas House contest 19 years ago.
“I would drive around Sweetwater, and there wasn’t a decorated home,” she said. “There wasn’t any holiday feeling.”
On Thursday, Barreto, Mayor Manny Maroño and judges toured the city on a trolley, choosing the homes best decorated in the holiday spirit and awarding the winning homeowner with cash prizes. The contest has become a holiday tradition in Sweetwater. Judges, composed of residents and employees, chose the winners. Commissioners and Maroño played no role in awarding winners.
Resident Leoncio Seijas has been decorating his home since 2000. He won second place in the trailer park category but has won the top prize in the past.
“This is a time I like to celebrate,” he said. “It brings a lot of happiness. It’s a lot of work.”
He starts to decorate in October.
In the contest, there are five categories that include houses, duplexes, condos, trailers and town houses. There are three prizes for each category. First-place winners will be awarded cash up to $100, and runners-up will be given gift baskets.
The event is significant, said Barreto.
“This brings unity to the community,” she said.
Once the judges, Maroño and the commissioners tour the city, they gather at a local business to decide on the winners.
“This means a lot, because nowadays we need to keep in mind the birth of Christ,” she said. “We need to give thanks, and the Christmas sprit is important.”
Greogoria Rodriguez won first place in the trailer category and always looks forward to decorating her home.
“I love to decorate, it’s nice. I feel good and happy to see my house decorated,” she said.