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Published December 25 2011

Moorhead man’s Christmas lights display again voted best

MOORHEAD – After winning last year’s Griswold Award, Troy Gilbertson wasn’t sure what he could do to improve his Christmas decorations.

Then, he found the reindeer.

Thanks to those seasonal critters and some other new additions, Gilbertson’s display, located at 2602 Spruce Lane in Moorhead, is the repeat winner of The Forum’s Griswold Award.

The award – named in honor of the Clark Griswold character played by Chevy Chase – honors the overindulgence of holiday decorations displayed in the movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”

The nominations for the award were submitted by friends and family, and this year there were 15 nominees in all.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the lack of snow on the ground, readers cast their vote in large numbers this year. Of the 4,182 votes cast last week – up 2,000 from last year – Gilbertson received a little more than 1,000 votes.

The closest competitor received almost 800 votes.

A line of five ascending and blinking reindeer was the biggest improvement to Gilbertson’s display this year, which already included thousands of bulbs and lights synched to Christmas tunes.

He also added, in his words, “a lot more ornaments, a lot more decorations and a lot more lights to music.”

In all, Gilbertson says he spent nearly 80 hours on the display, between planning, shopping and installation.

Though that’s a lot of time, his wife, Nichole, doesn’t mind.

“It’s a good hobby. Better than him getting into trouble,” she says, laughing.

Gilbertson does all the work by himself, starting with decorating the roof as early as Halloween (in case of snow), then finishing everything else up in November.

Without any snowfall this year, Gilbertson had an especially easy time getting the lights in place.

“This year’s been really good,” he says. “I’ve been able to stay out there for a while.”

Those helpful conditions may account for the large number of excellent displays around the metro area this year, he says, including all of the other Griswold Award nominees.

The amount of time Gilbertson puts into his Christmas display is a little ironic, he says, because as a child his family never over-indulged in the holiday decorations.

“We had a couple single-run lights, and if they burnt out, they stayed out,” he says.

His family would typically decorate their Christmas tree in blue and clear lights, and he’s continued that color scheme with his own decorations.

Gilbertson decorates for everyone else’s enjoyment as much as his own. The first night he lit up the display this year, 15 neighborhood kids came over to view the spectacle, he says.

On any given night, a steady stream of cars drives by his home, some slowing or stopping altogether to take in the display. And quite a few people have stopped by over the last few weeks to tell him how much they enjoy the display, he says.

That’s why Gilbertson does what he does every year, spending time in the cold, trying to make the perfect, most Griswold-esque decorations.

“People seem to enjoy it,” he says. “That’s what it’s all about. It makes it worth it for me.”

Griswold nominees

Here’s the full list of Griswold Award nominees, should you want to drive around and inspect their brilliant displays.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535