Past Wellington holiday lighting contest winners offer advice on decorating.

The Hinman and Nelson families divulge their secrets for success.

Combining 40 years of experience decorating their current homes, two of last year's winners offer their expertise in capturing the 300-dollar prize.

You'll need some help.
"One year, I was really concerned about my husband. He just had surgery on his shoulder and his arm was in a sling. We weren't going to get any lights up. I was really sad," said Brenda Nelson.

But her husband Lee realizes how important Christmas is to his wife.

"When I came home, he had gotten up to the peak of the house and put up my favorite wreath, so the house wouldn't look bare. I thought that was so sweet. I really worried about him, though. What if he had fallen off the roof?"

Fred Hinman also realizes the importance of the holiday -- more importantly -- the importance of embracing his wife Pam's passion.

Hinman jokes, "It's important to her, so it's important to me."

Pick a theme. Keep it simple.
"I don't do snowmen at all. This is Santa's territory," said Nelson.

To say she has a Santa obsession is an understatement. Her Santa theme extends to her home's interior. Nearly one thousand collectable Santas adorn her two-story home.

"I have one room in my basement that is Christmas all year long. In fact, I have several rooms where there are Santas up all year."

The Hinmans annually alter their theme, but creatively reuse their resources.

"Last year we went with a sort of candy cane Christmas village," said Hinman.

The faux rod-iron fence he used for Halloween is transformed into a candy cane lane.

Next, wrapping coil lights up and around his trees, his foliage takes the form of giant candy canes, sprinkling his main-street lawn.

Spend wisely.
Holiday cheer can quickly turn to holiday jeer. Bigger lights mean a bigger electric bill. But technology has changed the game.

"It used to be a lot worse. We switched over to LED lights. Now, it's a 20 dollar increase. Before, it was a 300 dollar increase. LED lights are much, much, much more efficient," said Hinman.

Another tip? It never hurts to check the bargain bin.

"I'm a little cheap," jokes Hinman.

"Stores put their decorations on sale after Christmas. Then, I comb through and see what could fit in for next year. Outdoor lighting can quickly become expensive. Buying it half price makes you feel a little better."

Expect trouble.
"You only get one shot, there's no make-up," said Hinman.

He recalls beating the judging deadline.

"I was under a little pressure to get the lights up. I was on my roof last year -- nine or ten o'clock at night -- trying to figure out which particular strand of lights was deciding to fail."

Forgetting something?
The lights are set up, reindeer in place. Fuses are changed, the windows in lace. One thing … you forgot to register your home with the chamber office. Register with the Wellington Chamber of Commerce by calling 620-326-7466, before 4 p.m., Nov. 29. Judging takes place from Dec. 3 to Dec. 13.

Remember, folks. Good luck, have fun, and hang on to those ladders.