Holiday Lights Contest

The contest is a longstanding tradition for a home on Washburn Avenue

Amy Gonyea believes her house on Washburn Avenue was calling her to it. Amy and her husband, Todd, were looking to relocate and were considering Victory for its close proximity to their workplaces. They saw houses all over the metro, but something about the colonial on Washburn grabbed them. They bought the home out of foreclosure in 2006 and have been happy to call Victory home since.

A few years after moving in, Amy and her husband believe they found the reason they were so drawn to the house: a shared love of holiday decorating with the original owner. While researching the house’s history, Todd discovered that Arthur B. Anderson, a professional sign painter, was a frequent winner of the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune and Minneapolis Star holiday decorating contests. The Gonyeas have found archival newspaper photos of their decorated house from 1937, 1938, 1941, and 1945. Arthur and his family lived in the house from the 1930-1970s and he decorated the property to the hilt, oftentimes calling upon his training as a sign painter and creating his own decorations out of wood and metallic paint.

40+ years after moving out, Arthur Anderson would be proud that the Gonyeas have carried on the house’s tradition of winning holiday decorating contests. The Gonyeas have won Victory’s annual holiday lights contest three times over the past few years.

As a child, Amy’s family went to church in Robbinsdale and she loved their annual traditional of driving the parkway during the holiday season. “It was really awesome,” she says of that time. Todd’s appreciation of decorating goes back to his days in college when he and his friends would convert their fraternity house into a haunted house at Halloween. These days, the Gonyeas decorate their house and yard for a number of seasons and holidays, but their biggest display comes out during the winter. They spend ten hours hanging lights and positioning inflatables. They try to mix it up each year and source their decorations primarily from second hand stores.

The Gonyeas keep investing their resources into decorating because they see it as a way to give back to the community. “So many people come and visit and love it. People stop and take selfies.” But their biggest inspiration comes from the kids walking by who stop to take in the wonder, “all holidays are for the children,” Amy says definitively.

You can compete with the Gonyeas in this year’s holiday lights contest by having your home or yard lit during the evenings of December 15-25. Winners and prizes will be presented at ViNA’s January meeting.

Archival Newspaper Photos of the Gonyea Home

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