Couple's holiday display snags top prize in HEAT contest

Hewitt couple spread holiday joy, donate to local animal shelter

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  • PHOTO PROVIDED Bill and Jaime hold a check for $500, the top prize in the Highlands Economic Development and Tourism Corp.'s (HEAT) holiday lights contest. At left is Tim Wagner, HEAT chairman.

  • Photo by Mark Cranston The Murphy's display includes a life-size Santa and Mrs. Claus and music.

By Carol Reif

Bill and Jaime Murphy's annual holiday display is the gift that just keeps on giving.

The couple started decorating their Elm Street house seven years ago, but had to take a hiatus because of personal reasons.

This Christmas they came back full force with a music and light show that passersby could hear by tuning their car radios to 92.1 FM.

It was so impressive that it snagged the Murphys the $500 grand prize offered by the West Milford-based Highlands Economic Development and Tourism Corp. (HEAT).

According to HEAT, there were 20 entries. The public was asked to vote on Facebook, and the Murphys drew the most "likes": 388.

Tim Wagner, HEAT chairman, said the purpose of the event is “to bring the community together while adding to the beauty of the township during the holiday season.”

It took them about 400 hours to set up.

The switch was thrown on Dec. 2, with neighbors gathered to share some hot cocoa and cheer.

When asked why they do, Jaime Murphy said: "We really love Christmas and it's a chance to spread joy and give back to the community."

The display will stay up through this Friday, Jan. 12.

A "Santa Shed" with a life-size Mr. and Mrs. Claus is used to hold the lights and other supplies.

The Murphys share the wealth in more ways than one. They collect donations for the West Milford Animal Shelter and are donating $100 of the prize money to help homeless animals as well.

During the Christmas season over the past several years, HEAT has spearheaded efforts to light up the township’s downtown area, stressing the theme of Unity for the community.

The 501(c)3 corporation also supports other charitable events and organizations, such as Project Graduation at the township high school, the American Legion, Bubbling Springs Day Camp and the Kelly Miller Circus.

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