Parks and Rec offers lighting contest

Masks required inside Berndes Center
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The Monticello Parks and Recreation Department is hosting an outdoor Christmas lighting competition, with proceeds going to support the inclusive playground project. The project has been taken over by the Austin Strong Foundation.

     The cost is $20 to enter the contest, which is open to both businesses and residents within the Monticello Community School District.

     The winner of the residential lighting contest will receive a value pack worth $100. The winning business will receive a traveling trophy.

     “We wanted to also create competition among the busines owners,” Parks and Rec Director Jacob Oswald said.

     He added that the traveling trophy serves as bragging rights for the winning business.

     Judging will take place Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 16 and 17. (You must sign up and pay your registration fee before Dec. 16.) Winners will be announced on Friday, Dec. 18.

     The residential lighting contest offers two categories: Traditional (lights only) and Full Throttle (the Clark Griswold special).

     Oswald said Parks and Rec chose to host the lighting competition due to the fact that other in-person community events were getting cancelled because of the pandemic. Having an outdoor lighting contest where people can drive by with their own households is a safe alternative.

     “It was a low-hanging fruit option,” Oswald said of an easy concept to bring the community together during the holidays. “People don’t have to be around others to do this. They can get in their cars and drive around and look at lights.”

     He said it was actually the Pine Street lighting competition and fundraiser for Fire Chief Don McCarthy that sparked the idea.

     “We chose to expand it to the entire community,” Oswald said.

     He added that Parks and Rec just wanted to bring about some joy during the holidays right now.

     “This is a cool way to use this as our first fundraiser for the playground project,” Oswald said.

     With the weather continuing to cooperate, Oswald urged that now is a good time to get out and hang those lights and outdoor decorations.

     In addition to the contest, Parks and Rec is also continuing to collect lights to decorate various parks and high-traffic areas of the community: Fountain Park, the Aquatic Center, Riverside Gardens, and the downtown pocket park.

     Strings of lights are still in need; LED lights are preferred.

     “We wanted to create some excitement around the holidays, and the parks have never been decorated before,” said Oswald.

     Parks and Rec started collecting lights after the holiday season last year.

     Since Gov. Kim Reynolds’ COVID-19 restrictions last week, all Parks and Rec youth activities have been cancelled.

     “We’ll re-evaluate it in the first week of December,” said Parks and Rec Superintendent Shannon Poe.

     It’s their policy to cancel/postpone Parks and Rec-sponsored activities and events is the COVID-19 positivity rate hits 15 percent. With the school district going online, Parks and Rec is following the same guidelines with youth sports.

     Parks and Rec is also requiring facemasks when inside the Berndes Center.

     However, private rentals of the Berndes Center still stand and are not cancelled. It is up to those renting the facility to require facemasks as well.

     With kids home for the next two weeks, Parks and Rec anticipates kids coming in to play ball inside the Berndes Center. Those youth must also wear a mask.

     “Our walkers and pickleball players are all wearing masks,” said Oswald. “We wanted to protect the kids as best as we could. We want to keep everyone safe and healthy as possible.”

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