PLEASANT GROVE If Christmas spirit is measured in light bulbs and electric watts, Richard Holdman officially dethroned Clark Griswold on Thursday as the nation's top amateur holiday decorator.
Pleasant Grove resident Holdman, 34, and his family won KFC's Festive Fanatics decorating competition, edging out 11 other dazzling household displays across the nation. Online users voted for their favorite Christmas displays at www.kfc.com and, when the polls closed Thursday night, Holdman's display was the winner with more than 14,000 votes.
Holdman, a Web designer by day and holiday lighting designer by night, was outside shoveling his driveway and preparing the better-than-"Christmas Vacation"-Christmas display Thursday night when KFC reps delivered the good news.
He was so excited he ran inside the house to find his wife.
"We won!" he said.
She said she was glad because their electric bill for the month just reached $260.
KFC representatives said the restaurant will foot the competition winner's electric bill for the month of December. In addition, KFC will pay the winning contestants' holiday credit card bills, up to $3,000. The Holdman family also won an year's supply of KFC's famous Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Holdman isn't sure how excited he is about that last prize.
"I don't know if I could handle eating that much chicken," he said.
Not to worry, though. He plans to share the wealth with his neighbors.
"They've put up with a lot of traffic," he said.
Holdman's display features flashing Christmas lights synchronized to music that can be heard on 99.9 FM. But high-tech flair didn't steal the competition. Holdman said some people who voted for him said they preferred the elegance of his house to the over-the-top, dizzying effect of other displays. Some of the comments surprised him.
"I liked them all," he said.
The Holdman family Christmas display drew a modest crowd when it first debuted last holiday season, Holdman said. Then videos circulated on the Web, the house's popularity snowballed and people started coming in droves.
Most of the onlookers hail from Utah and Salt Lake counties, but others travel from afar. Holdman said one man saw the display online and drove from Idaho to see the spectacle for himself.
After the Christmas display's success last year, Holdman decided to put it to good use and set a box outside his house to collect funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. So far, they've collected more than $4,000.
Although winning the decorating competition is a bonus, Holdman said it wasn't his primary motive for spending 200-plus hours untangling and winding Christmas lights.
"I wanted to do it as a gift to the community," he said. "And to spread the Christmas spirit."The Holdman family Christmas display can be viewed at 3183 Millcreek Road from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. See www.holdman.com for directions and more information.