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Winning Christmas Lights Competition tips for your family

Tanya Basford has shared how her family prepares their Flinders View wonderland for the annual competition.

‘Tis officially the season for residents to dig out their festive lights, merry decorations and favourite North Pole characters as entries are now open for the city of Ipswich 2021 Christmas Lights Competition.

Entry is free, quick and easy, and entrants can win a share in more than $8,000 worth of cash and prizes.

This year’s competition categories include:

  • Best Residential
  • Best Business or Organisation
  • Best Street
  • People’s Choice
  • Best New Entry
  • Best Sustainable Display
  • There is also a ‘Listing Only’ option

Ahead of their display officially being switched on next weekend, winner of the 2020 Best Sustainable display, Tanya Basford has shared how her family prepares their Flinders View wonderland for the annual competition.

Firstly, who is behind your incredible yearly Christmas Lights display?

Hillier Court Lights is a family run display. I lead the charge each year, my husband Jay “does what he is told” and the elves – our kids Ethan and Lilly – help us set up, greet guests and hand out candy canes to the kids if it’s not past their bedtime.

What does Christmas mean to your family?

Christmas is a magical time of the year. For us, it represents the end of the school year and a time to relax with family and friends. It is a time for lazy afternoons, water gun fights using tank water and spreading joy to our local community.

How early do you start planning your display ahead of Christmas?

I started planning our 2021 display back in January. I knew I wanted a new ‘wow’ factor, and it needed time to be custom made and imported. It finally arrived in May, and since then we have been working on bits and pieces behind the scenes during each of the school holidays.

How long does your Christmas lights display take to set up?

Due to work commitments, we are limited to weekends for set-up. We generally start putting lights out the front in September and do a little bit each weekend. By November, we are putting in eight-hour days on Saturdays and Sundays to get everything right.

What’s your most favourite element of your Christmas lights display?

My favourite element has been our puffing steam train made out of recycled aluminium cans. Unfortunately, it is starting to look tired so it will probably be retired after this season.

Our most expensive element is the secret new feature we have to replace the igloo, which we used all our 2020 prize money to purchase and have shipped to Ipswich from overseas.

What is the most difficult part of the set-up?

Definitely replacing broken lights. We always lose lights from one year to the next, even though they are packed away in working order. They are not too hard to replace when we have time up our sleeve to source new ones.

However, what is difficult is when a working light has been put into place and dies during testing evenings – then it is a mad rush to replace it!

What does it take to win the Christmas Lights Competition?

There is no formula for winning and we don’t enter to win. There are lots of amazing displays in Ipswich and we have just been very lucky that the judges have liked our display as much as we do.

I think having a point of difference that sets you apart from the others really does help. For us, it’s the recycling and repurposing of household items that gets people saying “wow!”

What motivates you to put so much effort into your Christmas lights display?

I do it because I love it, it’s my creative outlet, and the squeals of delight from the kids always gives me a rush and validates our family’s effort.

What’s your top tip for those wanting to take their own displays to the next level?

Make sure you do not bankrupt yourself! Christmas lighting is addictive, and it can take years to build up your display. We entered the competition for the first time in 2012 and have gradually added to it. Think about what you want for the following year and buy it at the end-of-year sales.

You should also always be mindful of safety. Use proper outdoor weatherproof boxes, keep pathways clear of cables and use temporary fencing to keep people out of areas that you don’t want them in.

Our official countdown to ‘Lights On’ starts at 7pm on Sunday November 28. All are welcome!
You can follow the Flinders View display on Facebook and Instagram.

For tips and tricks for making your own suburban light wonderland as well as more information about the competition, visit

The 2021 City of Ipswich Christmas Lights Competition is presented by Ipswich City Council in partnership with Slater and Gordon Lawyers and is supported by Energex, River 94.9, Nine News Queensland, NGU Real Estate Ipswich, Events Cinemas Springfield, Choices Flooring by Mallets, Ipswich, Harvey Norman Booval, Premier Queensland and Pocket Retreats.

Read also:

>>> Tips for taking Christmas Lights pictures with your mobile phone

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