While having a Christmas light contest is fun, it's also one more thing to do during an already busy time of year. Be prepared to spend some time organizing the event, particularly if it's a large one. A homeowners' association may need volunteers to help with certain tasks, such as organizing entrants or promoting the displays. Even a local government could likely benefit from volunteer assistance when planning a town-wide contest, particularly if the community's budget is tight and it can't afford the manpower necessary for such a task.
Putting together a judges panel might be a little difficult, especially since people tend to get emotional about their light displays. Although event organizers should always emphasize a spirit of good will, if the contest becomes overly competitive, it may be a good idea to keep the judges' identities anonymous. In these situations, having the public vote may be a better option, but be sure to come up with a rule that prevents entrants from stuffing their own ballot boxes.
To get both participants and traffic to the neighborhood, build your own Web site, where you can post contest rules and information. Design a flyer and write a press release that you can send to local Web sites, newspapers and television and radio stations to promote the contest. If the event seems newsworthy enough, it may receive some media coverage, which is the best and most effective form of free advertising!
To target willing sponsors, think about which businesses would be likely to help your cause. The local electric company is an obvious choice, but community-based business like a real estate company may also want to get its name out in your neighborhood. As an incentive for sponsors, make sure the companies' names are on any flyers you distribute, are included in the press releases and are on any signage used for the contest. For example, if you have a sign at each house that's taking part in the competition, be sure to include each sponsor's name or logo on it.
Most importantly, no matter how big or small your contest is, keep the spirit of the season in mind and do your best to ensure that it remains a fun and friendly competition!