EARLY — Two-hundred fifty dollars is up for grabs for both a home and business in Early as the annual Christmas lighting contest returns.

The deadline to enter either a home or business in the event is Friday, Dec. 14, as the judging will occur Dec. 15-16 with the winners announced at the Early Chamber of Commerce’s holiday open house on Thursday, Dec. 20. The contest is restricted to homes and businesses within the city limits of Early and there is no entry fee.

“The idea behind it is we want people to drive through Early and say, ‘Wow, did you see all the lights in that little town,” said Rebecca Pate, administrative assistant with the Early Chamber of Commerce and Early Economic Development Council. “We encourage all our residents and businesses to decorate for Christmas.”

The judging is based on a point system, according to Pate, which led to two businesses sharing the $250 prize last year. Three judges who do not reside in Early will decide the winners.

“We didn’t have a whole lot of entries last year, so we hope to get more,” Pate said. “They need to drop off their card with their name and address to the Early Chamber or to city hall.”

The Chamber’s holiday open house is slated for 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 20, with numerous other activities taking place along with the revelation of the contest winners. Refreshments will be served.

“We’ll be giving away door prizes and the ‘Local Vocals,’ which is made up of about 50 kids, will be caroling from around 6 to 6:30 p.m. that night,” Pate said. “We will also be giving out prizes and there will be different vendors with tables set up. It’s not really designed to sell products, but people can buy them if they want. It’s more to promote and let everyone know what they have for the holiday season.”

Also, those who attend the Chamber’s open house are encouraged to bring canned goods, which will be donated to Good Samaritan.