Wishing for a city of Christmas lights

Inspired by childhood memories, Brian Barber and his colleagues at Lake Financial are reviving Port’s lighting contest in the hope it will inspire a holiday extravaganza

SPURRED BY MEMORIES of past holiday extravaganzas, Lake Financial Group is bringing back the Christmas lighting contest. Decked out in holiday finery while preparing for the event, which is open to residents of the greater Port Washington area, are (from left) co-managing partner Brian Barber, office manager Nicole Depies and co-managing partner Justin Behm. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Brian Barber remembers the time when, decades ago, his father would go all out, decorating the outside of the family’s Port Washington home for the holidays.

“My dad was really into it,” Barber said. “We’d be out there helping him wrap all the trees and bushes. We had a huge star on the roof.”

But it wasn’t just the magical quality of the lights or the tradition he was starting that prompted his dad to wind strings of lights and place decorations in the yard, Barber recalled.

It was a Christmas lighting contest held in the area that prompted his family and so many others to decorate the exterior of their homes, providing a festival backdrop to celebrations in the city, he said.

It’s been years since the contest has been run, and now Barber and his colleagues at Lake Financial Group are bringing it back. They’re announcing it now so people have time to plan and execute their decor.

Barber got the idea last year when he and his wife drove their children around Cedarburg to look at the lights. They were surprised, he said, to find few homes decorated.

“If you drive around Port, there are lights everywhere,” he said. “In Cedarburg, there were not as many lights as we expected.”

He brought the idea back to his office, and the staff ran with it.

“There’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit,” said Justin Behm, Barber’s co-managing partner at Lake Financial. “One of the things my kids love to do is get in the car and see all the lights.”

“Talk about creating a tradition,” added office manager Nicole Depies. “We’re bringing the tradition back. What’s more magical at Christmas than seeing all the lights?”

They are asking people to register their houses — or nominate someone they know — for the competition by Dec. 5.  The houses will be logged on a map that can be accessed online and they will also print maps for people to pick up.

“That way, you’re not driving around randomly,” Depies said.

“If we create a map of all the houses, it allows families to spend a night or two going around to see all the lights,” Barber said. 

People will then be able to vote for their favorite houses online, with the winners announced on Dec. 26. Prizes will be awarded for the top three vote-getters.

The prizes will included gift certificates for downtown shopping and perhaps something more, they said.

“We should get a leg lamp,” Behm suggested, referring to the lighting fixture made famous in “A Christmas Story.”

“There are some people who are going to really go overboard. You know, sometimes it’s not so much the prize as the pride.”

The contest is open to anyone in the greater Port Washington-Saukville area, they said.

“We’re hoping it really goes nuts,” Barber said. “I’m really excited about it.”

Registration forms and other information about the contest can be found at www.LakeFG.com or the company’s Facebook page.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
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