With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the holiday season throughout the country, Tyler Daniels has noticed something interesting taking place in his hometown of Paola and surrounding communities. More and more houses than ever before are featuring elaborate Christmas displays.

He figured that, like himself, the members of the community are embracing any bit of positivity they can find this holiday season.

All of that hard work by his neighbors inspired Daniels to come up with a rating system and go around judging local Christmas light displays. He even created a Facebook group called Miami County Christmas Lights.

“The idea of the group came from my buddies and I thinking the concept of rating Christmas lights would be hilarious,” Daniels said. “I told them it would be an awesome idea and that this would be a perfect year to do it.”

Daniels created a scoring sheet that rates reach display in the categories of Coverage, Brightness, Creativity, Color and Theme. Each display can earn up to five stars in each category, and then an overall star rating is issued.

Daniels embraced the humor of the whole endeavor by picking the perfect ride to drive around in — an old station wagon with a Christmas tree on the roof ala Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation.

After judging each home, he leaves the scoresheet on the front door for the owner to find.

“A mulleted man hopping out of a suspicious vehicle in the middle of the night and taping a Christmas light scoresheet on your door that you didn’t ask for#MakingChristmasGreatAgain,” Daniels posted on the Facebook group’s message board.

Daniels just started the group on Friday, Dec. 4, but it already has about 800 members, and the message board is filled with comments from homeowners and photos of their displays.

“Tyler Daniels, thanks to you and your trained professionals from the North Pole for bringing so much holiday cheer to Miami County,” Margaret McMahon-Scherman posted on the page. “My family is looking forward to checking out all these light displays. What a fun holiday tradition you are bringing to Miami County. It’s so fun to see all the photos and so many positive comments, especially while living in the Covid Pandemic. You all rock!”

“Our kids were so excited to find a rating taped on the front door this morning,” Hillerie Hedberg posted on the page. “We love that you guys are doing this. It’s a great way to recognize everyone’s Christmas lights and bring some fun and joy during tough times! Thank you!”

“Thanks everyone for decorating for all the Christmas lights,” Tracy Kramer posted on the page. “It is so pleasant driving around and seeing so many. Whether you are a 1 star or 5 star house, your style and effort are much appreciated.”

Although several houses have received five-star overall ratings, none of the houses have received a perfect five-star rating in each category.

“We don’t rate anything lower than a 2,” Daniels posted on the page. “Being that a 2 is average (because there aren’t any perfect 5s in every category yet), anything over is above average. We appreciate anyone and everyone who decorates their house.”

Daniels said the popularity of the page has really taken off in the past few days, and the whole concept continues to grow and get bigger and better. The Facebook group now includes a link to a page where people can post their address or nominate someone else to be judged.

Locations are currently listed all throughout Miami County, and Miami County Economic Development Director has included many of them on a Google map that also is posted on the Facebook group page to assist people looking to drive around and check out the lights for themselves.

“Since the group has come out and word had spread, people are going even more all out on their decorations,” Daniels said. “Seeing the whole community come together to ‘compete’ with each other has been really awesome.”

Homeowners who go all out may win more than just bragging rights. Daniels recently announced on the page that all five-star houses will be added to a poll on the page so everyone can vote for the best house in Miami County.

“The 5 star winner will get a trophy and a $100 gift card. Anyone else under 5 stars overall, post up your scorecard and a picture of your display on this group, and the person with the most likes will get a $50 gift card,” Daniels posted. “The 5 star poll will start on December 21st, and end at December 24th at Noon. The 4.5 star and under poll starts now and will end the same time on the 24th.”

Daniels said the prize money and trophy will be paid for by the judges.

“We aren’t accepting any donations to us personally, we are doing this for fun and to spread joy,” he said.

Editor and Publisher Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or brian.mccauley@miconews.com.

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