Down on the decorative corner

Andrew Edwards

Animatronic reindeer, electric snowmen and lots of illuminated Santas

set the scene Sunday night at the kickoff for one neighborhood's

annual Christmas decoration contest.

About 40 adults, accompanied by several boisterous children, met

for the second annual "Cider on the Corner" event, where they shared

cookies, coffee and hot apple cider before taking a walk together to

gaze at holiday decorations in Costa Mesa's Halecrest and Hall of

Fame communities.

Decorated homes featured designs that ranged from simple strings

of lights to more elaborate schemes that included props like

old-fashioned Santa sleighs and a mock-up of a toy store.

Neighbors and others attending the walk vote for their favorite

homes in six categories: originality, humor, best religious design,

most elegant, best design that only used lights and best

children's-themed home. Voting is scheduled to continue through


Last year's winner for best children's design was the Murray Lane

home of Dennis and Michelle Clark, who seemed poised to defend their

crown with an elaborate display that included an illuminated Nativity

scene, a Santa train and a design that transformed the home's front

window into a toy-store display. Among the bushes at the front of the

Clarks' home were several tiny models that included ancient

Bethlehem, a Camp Grizzly full of Christmas bears and an ice-fishing

gnome. The display has grown to include more and more features over

past holiday seasons.

"I started out with just the nativity, and it's bloomed," Michelle

Clark said.

Another neighbor who had several decorations was Scott Uhach,

whose Loren Lane home featured a large, inflatable Grinch in a Santa

suit and a 1950s model of Santa in his sleigh on the roof. He and

some of his neighbors prowl Internet auctions and after-Christmas

sales to find decorations.

"You've just got to watch out every year," Uhach said. "The

clearance sales. That's the only way to go -- day after Christmas,

everything's 50% off."

The event wasn't just about the light show, neighbors said. A big

part of the night was helping to build stronger ties between


"It's a pretty good crowd; we always get people we've never met

before," observed neighbor Leslie Connell, who helped organize the

walk. "We get people that just moved in, and that's a good thing,

because it means they want to meet everybody."

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