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Sylvan Lake

Christmas lights, sweets bring joy to Sylvan Lake

December 4, 2013

SYLVAN LAKE — While living in a small town has its perks, it can also mean traveling for entertainment. Battling boredom and ensuring community bonding, the Sylvan Lake Parks and Recreation Committee will once again host its joyous holiday activities to brighten the town.

Holiday Lights Competition
For more than six years, Sylvan Lake residents have channeled their inner Clark Griswold, stringing extravagant lights and decorating trees around their houses for the annual Holiday Lights Competition. With nine categories, the event has turned into a self-pride activity for the city, as visitors and residents can tour the displays at night, said Patrick Runk, chair of Sylvan Lake’s Parks and Recreation committee.  This year, anonymous volunteers of the community will drive through the city the night of Dec. 14, searching for winners for the following categories:

• Best Christmas tree
• Most artistic
• Best Christmas theme
• Best religious theme
• Best white lights
• Best lights
• Living Christmas card
• Best neighborhood/street group
• Best multicolor

“The Holiday Lighting competition is something special and truly enhances the unique character of our city,” said Michael Zubrzycki, mayor of Sylvan Lake, in an email. “It generates healthy competition amongst neighbors, and lighting strategies are discussed regularly at community social events.”

In the past, Runk said, 60-70 homes participated in the community contest, and on some streets, two or three houses in a row jampack lights, showcasing the intense yet enthusiastic rivalry among neighbors.

“You don’t want to see their electric bill in January,” he added.

“I’m not sure which house has the tallest roof, but I always enjoy hearing the debates over the best way to place that last string of lights on a 30-foot peak,” Zubrzycki said.

Last year, Runk said, former City Council member Brian Etter secretly decorated a tree outside, lighting it on judgment night.

“It’s pretty neat that everybody has a strategy to what they want to do to try and get one of those signs in their front yard,” Runk added.

The following two days are a nail-biter as the committee doesn’t announce the winners until Monday. Sylvan Lake’s Department of Public Works delivers large signs, listing the winning category, to the selected houses Monday, Dec. 18, and a list of the champions will be posted on the city website.

To see a list of the winners Monday, Dec. 18, visit

Holiday Cookie Exchange with Santa
Parks and Recreation has hosted the Holiday Cookie Exchange for four years, and while the festive party is specifically a cookie exchange, kids will enjoy a visit from Santa Claus. Participating residents of all ages are asked to bring a dozen cookies and an unwrapped, new toy to be donated to the Lighthouse of Oakland County in Pontiac. Monetary donations will also be accepted.

“As long as they are new, unwrapped toys … we try and make sure someone is not getting what they got for Christmas two years ago,” Runk said.

The cookie exchange and pictures with Santa Claus take place noon-2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15, at the Community Center. In the past, 25-35 kids have attended the event, and the committee has collected an equivalent number or more gifts to be donated to Lighthouse, said Runk.

Historically, the event has been strictly for Sylvan Lake residents, but Runk said that as long as families bring “yummy” cookies and an unwrapped toy, the party is open to anyone.

“There’s not a large outlay of costs where we would usually be restricting it,” he added.

In the past, the committee has included games and crafts for the children, and Runk said that while they have not finalized the specific activities, he anticipates an afternoon of festivities for the children.

The Sylvan Lake Community Center is located at 2456 Pontiac Drive in Sylvan Lake.

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