MADISON, NJ - With Christmas only days away, many homes are lit up at night with festive holiday themes including Santa, Rudolph and snowflakes. Each residence has its own unique flavor and every year the Madison Chamber of Commerce recognizes people’s outstanding Christmas decorations.

On Wednesday, they held their annual Outdoor Home Decorating Contest, which awards the top two winners with gift checks valued at $100 and special recognition plaques. A total of 17 homes entered the competition.

A variety of themed categories including “Most Elegant,” “Most Colorful,” “Best Sparkling Holiday” and “Most Traditional,” are also rewarded. All winners are given a sign to place in their yards.

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It was sponsored by Provident Bank, Hair We Are, JM Egan Wealth Advisers Poor Herbie's, Stewart-Morris Awards, Gifts & Flags, Riker Conference Connection, House Doctors of Morris, Cleaners Advantage, dtorr, Dangler Funeral Home, Maison Decor and Rose City Collision.

The two grand prizes were awarded to the Lajewski family, 2 Woodside Rd. and the Pagliuca family, 48 Knollwood Ave. 

Marco Pagliuca, 19, of Knollwood Ave., has been decorating his home for Christmas since he was a freshman in high school. Each year, he adds more things to his front yard and tries to create innovative festive ornaments.

While he does everything by himself, he said it’s usually easy because he works as a carpenter for his uncle. He started putting decorations on the roof in his sophomore year of high school and only got hurt a few times.

“I got shocked a couple times, but it wasn’t too bad,” he said. 

He normally begins setting everything up right after Halloween, but because of the hurricane he waited.  He built reindeer on stilts and a snowman and a sled for Santa from scratch. He also put snowflakes and lights on the bushes and hoops made out of PVC pipes that light up on the driveway.

He said his family enjoys the decorations, but his parents don’t like the high electric bill.

“I like to decorate, so I don’t care what I get,” he said.

For Lee Ann Nugent, at 35 Lawrence Road, decorating is a tradition she has been doing since she was a child. She won the Home for the Holidays award, but seeing all of the lights and ornaments really makes her happy, she said.  

“I plan my landscaping around what I’m going to do with my lights,” she said.

Because of Hurricane Sandy, she didn’t go all out with decorating as she normally does. She said neighbors with youngsters look forward to seeing their home each year.

“I have to still keep doing it if other people are looking for it,” Nugent said.

Her front yard, porch and garage were decorated with holiday ornaments and a nativity scene in the middle of the yard, which she made with her dad five years ago.

The following families were awarded within a theme category. The Torrani family, 19 Highland Ave. won Most Elegant and the Arnstein family, 14 Noe Ave. won Most Colorful. The Sylva family, One Cross Gates won Picture Perfect. The Zienowicz family, 152 Shunpike Rd. won Most Creative. The Guevara family, 22 Cook Ave. won Best Sparkling. The Punola family, 210 Central Ave. won the Best Storybook theme. The Abilo family, 23 Laurel Way won Old-Fashioned Christmas and the Baumgartner family, 164 Park Ave. won Most Traditional. The Nugent family, 35 Lawrence Rd. won Home for the Holidays. The Taylor family, 48 Valley Rd. won Most Tasteful and the Dagon family, 221 Greenwood Ave. won Winter Wonderland. Each theme winner received a $25 Chamber of Commerce gift check, a certificate of acknowledgement and a sign to be placed on their property.

Honorable Mentions went to the Smollen family, 125 Garfield Ave., the Rocco family, 215 Central Ave., the Wickens family, 18 Glenwild Rd., the Morrison family, 33 Beech Ave., and the Blair Family, 8 Rosemont. 

Holiday decorating awards were also awarded to the following businesses:  David’s Rumba Cafe, 6 Elmer St.; Cramers Carpet One, 73 Main St.; Rose City Jewelers & Gemologists, 1 Waverly Pl.; Gerlach’s Jewelers, 61 Main St.; Statements, 57 Main St.; Madison Pet Shop, 26 Main St.; Madison Jaguar, 275 Main St.; and Main Street Wine Cellar, 306 Main St.