Holiday afterglow: Utqiagvik residents receive prizes for their Christmas decoration efforts

A big yellow star sat on top of the roof, with a soft glow enveloping the house on North Star Street. The house, also rimmed with blue and purple lights, belongs to Stefanie Lozano and her family, who won Utqiaġvik’s Christmas Lighting Competition.

In total, four Utqiagvik residents received prizes on Jan. 11 for winning the contest, which went from Dec. 8 to Jan. 2, City Mayor Asisaun Toovak said. The prizes included AC Gift Cards and large stockings filled with children’s gifts from the city, as well as prime ribs from the North Slope Borough.


Lozano said her family started decorating their house on North Star Street because their house was the go-to place for Halloween trick-or-treating. Other residents started asking the family whether they would decorate for Christmas as well. Now, together with friends and neighbors, Lozano’s family has been decorating the house for Christmas for the last five years.

“It brings so much joy to the community and something for kids to look forward to,” Lozano said. “My kids loved it and so do their friends.”

The third place in the Christmas Lights Competition went to the house of Rhoda Ahmaogak whose daughter Janae Rae was one of the main decorators. Rae said that Christmas decoration is an important yearly tradition for her.

“Growing up, my sister Allie always decorated our house. Every year. She passed away in December of 2016,” Rae said. “I’ve been doing it since.”

Years ago, the city used to do a Christmas Lighting Competition, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the city council decided to bring back a tradition to hold healthy competitions using funds from the North Slope Borough, Toovak said.

In November, the city held an initiative “What are you thankful for?” where children from younger than 17 could express what they are thankful for in a drawing or in a simple letter, Toovak said. And in December, the city’s Director of Operation Kalen Texeira presented the idea of a Christmas lighting competition.

“I think it motivates our community to do healthy activities with their families and friends,” Toovak said. “Maybe we should have published the competition in October because that’s when it’s the perfect weather to hang up lights.”

Alena Naiden

Alena Naiden writes about communities in the North Slope and Northwest Arctic regions for the Arctic Sounder and ADN. Previously, she worked at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.