Where Cory Frey’s in-laws live in Texas, there is a community smaller than Abilene called Johnson City that routinely attracts tourists during the holiday season with large Christmas display put up by the Pedernales Electric Cooperative. Frey said the extensive display draws thousands of people to the town of 1,198.

For his own part, Frey loves Christmas decorations, but he doesn’t enjoy all the work involved in taking them down.

He has found a compromise in looking at the decorations put up by others.

“I love looking at Christmas lights and when we were growing up as kids, we always did a lot of Christmas lights, but I hate taking them down,” he said. “And so I want to see other people’s Christmas lights because I don’t want to take them down.”

This what inspired him — with help from several other business owners in Abilene — to hold the first-ever Cowtown Christmas Light Showdown this weekend.

The Christmas decoration contest takes place Dec. 4.

Frey said he also took inspiration from events in other communities that draw a lot of participation.

“I thought it would be fun to have this competition,” he said. “One of my goals with it — I have a lot of goals with it — but one of my goals was I wanted people who are entering the contest to just go all out with the competition.”

To this end, Frey and his fellow business owners are offering cash prizes for the winners.

First place is $2,000, second place is $1,000 and third place is $500. Mayor Brandon Rein will also have a handful of picks who will receive $100 each.

Frey’s hope is that, in order to win that cash prize, participants will be especially creative in their displays. It doesn’t have to be just lights, either. He mentioned the possibility of providing food and drinks and live music as part of the display the night of the event.

“My goal is, I wanted all these almost like little parties kind of going on all over town,” he said. “People can go to this one and see their lighting display. They can go to this one over here and see what they’re doing and then vote on it. So that’s why I wanted the prize money to be pretty significant.”

There will be one night of voting and judging Dec. 4.

Community members will serve as judges. People can donate a nonperishable food item to the food bank to receive a ballot and a map of all the contestants so they can vote for their favorite display.

Frey hopes people will travel from outside Abilene to see the displays and hopes the event grows with time. 

“I would love to have that happen here in Abilene where we’re getting thousands of people coming in to see these crazy lighting displays,” he said. “I would also love it if it could grow in the years (to come) and it starts getting media attention and Abilene starts getting this reputation of ‘hey, this town does crazy lights for the holidays.’”


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