NEW CASTLE, Colorado - Joe and Barbara Gugelman of New Castle are this week's winners in the Post Independent's holiday lighting contest.
To see their display, drive by 412 Alder Way, New Castle, in Castle Valley Ranch. Last week's winners, Brian and Rebecca Fuller, live less than two blocks away at 521 Honeysuckle Drive.
The Gugelmans' blue spruce tree, lit an intensely bright blue with about 1,500 LED bulbs, is the factor that swayed the Post Independent's judges.
The judges also remarked about the display's creative lighting of other trees in the yard, as well as the brightly lit and inviting entryway to the home.
Coming in a close second this week were Carolyn and Phil Meadowcroft at 659 Dolores Circle, on Westbank Mesa south of Glenwood Springs.
Joe Gugelman, maintenance manager for the Colorado Mountain College Rifle campus, said he was surprised to be chosen because he has seen many great displays all over the valley this month.
"There are a lot of people out there with beautiful lights this year. I think the warm weather got people inspired," Gugelman said.
He and Barbara, who is a certified occupational therapy assistant at E Dene Moore Care Center and the Colorado State Veterans Home in Rifle, have been decorating their Castle Valley Ranch home for all 12 years they have lived there.
They won the New Castle lighting contest three times in years past, Joe said.
"We always go a little bit crazy," he said.
This year, the couple's grandchildren came over, and the family hung the lights in no time at all.
Over the past few years, the Gugelmans have been buying more strings of LED lights. At this point, Joe Gugelman estimates that about 98 percent of their 6,000 individual lights are now LEDs.
The exception is a few strings of gold lights, which decorate a bush in their yard.
"Crayola put those out about 12 years ago, and I have just a few strings left working," Gugelman said. LED lights aren't yet made in that color, so he is hanging on to them.
The new LED strings are an investment, but Gugelman hopes to see a payoff on his electric bill.
"It used to cost me an extra $300 for about six weeks. Last year we were out of town and didn't decorate as much, and this is the first year with this such a percentage of LEDs. I hope it will cut my bill by a third. It will be interesting to see how it ends up," Gugelman said.
The Gugelmans take a lot of pleasure from their holiday lighting, especially when neighbors comment.
"I do it partially for my enjoyment, and for other people," Gugelman said. "My neighbor recently called me and said I was interfering with air traffic control."
His neighbor also noted that she doesn't need to put up lights, because she can look out her window and enjoy Gugelman's lighting.
One more week remains in the Post Independent's holiday lighting contest, which is open to all residents of Garfield County, from Carbondale to Parachute.
"As the winners are chosen, a donation to the LIFT-UP food bank will be made in honor of these three winning families, for sharing their festive holiday spirits," said Stephanie Schafer, publisher of the Post Independent.
The holiday lighting contest rules are simple.
• Submit a photo of your home's decorated exterior, along with your name, street address, city, and a daytime phone number. Winners will be contacted for details about their display.
• Photos must be high resolution, large files of 1 MB or larger. (Make sure your email program doesn't automatically downsize the attachment.)
• All photos submitted by noon on Wednesday, Dec. 19, will be considered. (This is an earlier deadline for this final week.) The winning home and several honorable mentions will be published in the Sunday, Dec. 23, edition.
• Send photos and your info to: firstname.lastname@example.org.