The Merry and Bright Holiday Home Challenge is Open for Registration

Merry & Bright Holiday Home Challenge keeps getting brighter

COOKEVILLE – Clark Griswold would be proud of this holiday contest.

Cookeville’s fourth annual Merry and Bright Holiday Home Challenge offers something for everybody, from those who go all out with lights and decorations to those who simply love to admire the wondrous displays.

First comes the contest — a chance for creative homeowners to roll up their holiday sleeves to compete for cash prizes and bragging rights. Then comes the Tour of Lights — because, of course, everybody wants to know where to find Cookeville’s best and brightest holiday homes. What better way to do so than to follow a map featuring the addresses of all the Merry and Bright participants?

“It is a family tradition of ours to drive around and see all the Christmas lights every year,” Sally Herren, Leisure Services recreation programmer, said.

Herren is also passionate about holiday decorating. Last year (before joining the Leisure Services staff) she even entered the Merry and Bright contest, so she understands firsthand the competitiveness and spirited fun from both angles. Plus, she knows what it means to contest participants to have their handiwork enjoyed by passersby. That’s why the self-guided Tour of Lights is the ideal bonus activity to complement the decorating challenge.

“My family entered the contest so everyone could come see our light display,” Herren said. “The map makes it easier to spot all the houses in the competition.”

The Merry and Bright Holiday Home Challenge, presented by Cookeville Leisure Services and the Upper Cumberland Association of Realtors, is an exterior home decorating contest for single-family residences in Putnam County within a 10-mile radius of the Cookeville Courthouse Square. For $10 per entry, participants may enter the category (or categories) that best suits their decorating style for a chance to win up to $100 and a winner’s sign for their yard.

Registration is open through Nov. 24 and may be completed at or by calling 520-4386. Judging will take place Dec. 1-6.

This year’s contest features newly revamped categories, plus some fun recognition awards. Those categories include Classic Christmas (think traditional, clean displays), Merry and Bright (a Christmas feel with the brains of technology) and Holly Jolly (Santa, candy canes and all the things that make Christmas jolly, fun and cute). Participants may also strive for the outrageously festive and fun Griswold Award (think Christmas lights galore).

“I love the new categories,” Herren said. “Classic Christmas is for the house that likes to keep it simple and elegant with lights and décor. Merry and Bright is more for the animated displays. Holly Jolly is definitely for the kid at heart who loves to see Santa and his reindeer or Frosty the Snowman out on the lawn. The Griswold Award is for the house that probably has a high electric bill during the contest because they have the most lights.”

The best newcomer to the contest will be recognized as well.

“If you think you might not have a chance coming into the contest as a newbie, don’t fret,” Herren said. “We are going to award a newcomer for their hard work.”

The always-competitive People’s Choice social media contest will take place Dec. 7-11 on the Cookeville Leisure Services Department’s Facebook page. This contest consists of Facebook users “liking” the photo of their favorite holiday home from among all Merry and Bright participants.

To make this year’s program more fun and interactive, Herren will be incorporating a new Christmas scavenger hunt that can be completed along with the Tour of Lights. Clues will be included on the map.

“Everyone can check off things they might see while driving around doing the Tour of Lights,” she said.

For more information about the Merry and Bright Holiday Home Challenge and Tour of Lights, call 526-7393 or 520-4386.

“During this uncertain time that 2020 has brought upon us, I think it is important for everyone to still get out and celebrate as much as they can,” Herren said. “So much has been taken away from us this year, but this is one activity you can do safely this holiday season, whether you’re decorating your own house for the contest or driving around to see the lights.”


CLASSIC CHRISTMAS: A simple, clean display that may include traditional wreaths, garland and other decor, clear or gold-tinted lights, and touches of red and green. Think of Christmases past.

MERRY & BRIGHT: Cheerful display that may include animated light shows and animatronics. A Christmas feel with the brains of technology.

HOLLY JOLLY: Santa, reindeer, snowmen, candy canes and elves. All the things that make Christmas jolly, fun and cute.

GRISWOLD AWARD: Outrageously festive, fun and bright with Christmas lights galore. This house may have a really high electric bill.