RICHLAND — Joy Cole’s name fits perfectly with her favorite season.

“I love Christmas,” she says.

And in the latter part of 2020, she felt like her community needed some cheering up.

“COVID stopped all our activities,” Cole said. “I was down because of all the events we couldn’t have.”

Then, an idea surfaced when she was chatting with a friend.

“We were talking about what we can do to make people feel comfortable and give them something to look forward to,” Cole said.

The first idea: a car caravan for Christmas caroling.

“We put the loud speaker and music in the back of a pickup,” she said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Local residents Mib and Jacque Dailey were Santa and Mrs. Claus for the caroling event and handed out candy.

Although the caroling was fun, Cole wanted something more to brighten the dark December nights.

“We talked about decorating houses and lighting up the community,” she said.

She presented the idea to members of the New Bridge Grange, who decided to support it and sponsor the prizes for the Christmas lighting contest: $100 for first place, then four $25 awards for the runner up displays.

Cole put up posters about the contest, and articles ran in Halfway’s Hells Canyon Journal newspaper.

“And when I saw someone, I asked if they would do lighting,” Cole said. “It was to get people out of their house and think of something other than COVID.”

She had 18 people enter the contest.

“But we had others who didn’t enter but still decorated,” she said. “One guy kept decorating until Valentine’s Day.”

She said Richland Feed & Seed couldn’t keep lights in stock.

“He had to keep ordering,” Cole said.

She brought in anonymous judges from out of town, and said people came from around Eastern Oregon and Boise to see the light displays in Eagle Valley.

“The whole town of New Bridge was full of lights. It was wonderful,” she said.

(New Bridge is an unincorporated community about three miles north of Richland.)

Cole is already spreading the word for the 2021 version of the contest, which she’s calling “Light Up Eagle Valley.” Prizes are again sponsored by the New Bridge Grange.

Cole is accepting entries now. Judging will happen between Dec. 18-21, and the winners will be announced before Christmas.

“I’m hoping to have more entries,” she said. “It’s to get everyone in a better mood and feeling good. It’s just a happy time.”

For information about the lighting contest, or to enter, call Cole at 541-893-3285.

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