On Monday, Dec. 14, the Lykins neighborhood was filled with holiday spirit as vehicles decorated for the season paraded down streets strewn with lights and garland.
The Lykins Neighborhood Association came up with the idea to host a socially distant Car Parade and House Decorating Contest in lieu of its annual Christmas party because of the ongoing spread of COVID-19 in the community.
“It’s what we came up with to still have fun, show off the neighborhood and socially distance,” Neighborhood association President Robert Ontman said.
Neighbors met at the 9th and Van Brunt Athletic Fields to decorate their cars before they paraded through the neighborhood on Monday evening. They shared laughs and tips on stringing lights while Christmas tunes drifted across the chilly parking lot.
Ontman was the undisputed winner of the Car Decorating Contest. He purchased a black limousine from a neighbor on Kensington, to which he added lights, shiny garland and stick horses with their heads out the windows. He served as Santa’s chauffeur as the group made their way through the neighborhood, delivering gift baskets to competitors.
“We wanted to have a lighting contest and then we decided to go around to each house, wouldn’t it be cool if we had a parade,” Diana Graham, Vice President of the neighborhood association said.
Kelly Allen, Special Projects Director for the Lykins Neighborhood, and son Kenneth Ashby joined the car parade, as well. While they live elsewhere in Northeast, Allen grew up in Lykins and it remains her favorite neighborhood.
“We just love that we get to do some version of a Christmas party,” Allen said. “We usually have a really good Christmas party, so this feels like… it’ll be different and just as good.”
Ashby agreed, saying it felt good to get out of the house, and even just having something to do felt nice. They’ve been strictly isolating throughout the pandemic. As a family, they decorated their house extra early this year – on Thanksgiving – because, why not?
“The resilience of human nature is amazing to me,” said Graham.
Seventeen neighbors entered the contest, but the judges prepared treat bags for at least 100 neighbors, knowing they would head outside to watch the spectacle. Allen said she has noticed not only more people decorating their homes, but those who usually decorate got more elaborate.
Throughout the route, residents greeted the parade from their stoops, yards and sidewalks, with kids excited to see Santa, even from a safe distance. Each car in the parade judged the decorated houses in a variety of categories. First prize was $100, second was $50 and third was $25.
First place went to Norma Scott at 4405 E. 10th St., who had both her yard and house decorated with multi-colored lights and blow-up characters.
Joseph Florez and his family, of 4702 E. 6th St., decorated both their home and their vintage car, which he brought out of storage for the event. The Florez family walked away with second place for their home, which featured lights strung from their willow tree and blow up characters like Spongebob and a snowman.
“We saw they were doing this and thought it was a cool little time to come out and show the car and show that we love being here,” Florez said.
He grew up in Lykins and has been here all 29 years of his life, he explained as he finished putting the final touches on his car with his 11-year-old daughter Milaya.
“It’s definitely coming back, I mean, they’re doing a whole lot of renovations around,” Florez said. “I’m raising my kids here and we love it.”
Carmen Serrano of 631 Indiana Ave. took third place with her home, which was decorated with lighted reindeer and multi-colored icicles.
“We wanted to do something that would celebrate the neighborhood,” Executive Director Gregg Lombardi said. “It celebrates the group, we came together, we had a lot of fun and then we went and encouraged people to get in on the celebration of the neighborhood. It’s just positive all the way around without having an indoor celebration.”