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From motels and restaurants to financial institutions and small shops, the fourth time around for the Holiday Display Contest in Lexington Park has drawn about two dozen entries, and this year’s chairperson said this week that she’s still looking for more.

“It’s been fun calling, corraling them in,” Sharon McLeod-Hare said. The official entry deadline was Wednesday, but “we’re not holding really firm to that. This is Lexington Park,” she said. “We can relax the rules.”

McLeod-Hare, general manager of the Comfort Inn & Suites that opened last June, said her business can’t compete this year because she’s chairing the event, but that her two weeks of calls, starting with past contestants, has illustrated the contest’s value for all of Lexington Park. Twelve of the businesses in this year’s contest are participating for the first time.

“It’s good advertising for our area,” she said, “and whoever the winner is.”

The winning business in last year’s contest, Smart Homes Plus, isn’t taking part this year, but 2011’s No. 2 contestant, Grapevine Antiques & Collectibles on Tulagi Place, is trying even harder this time.

“We put out a lot more stuff this year,” co-owner Ken Newell said, “plus a lot of wreaths on the inside.”

He and Helen Newell have been taking part in the contest since its start in 2009, the year that the adjoining Linda’s Cafe restaurant won top honors.

“Last year was the first year they gave prizes,” Ken Newell said, and he and his wife received $250 for their entry. They’d had good practice, going back to when the shop opened in September 2006. “We always decorated,” he said.

This year’s winner and second-place contestant will receive feature coverage and advertising on local online news websites.

Newell concurred that the decorating is beneficial for business.

“The people who come in seem to like it, especially if we stay open in the evening, because it’s all lit up,” he said. “Sometimes, we’ll stay open until 6. It depends if people are out and about, or a customer asks us.”

The winners will be announced during the first week of 2013, after their entries are judged by Susie Fowler, the principal of Lexington Park Elementary School; Bill Scarafia, the president of the St. Mary’s County Chamber of Commerce; and St. Mary’s County Commissioner Todd Morgan (R).

Fowler said she first took part in judging the contest last year, and that it gave her a chance to make her first visit into some shops, including the solar business that won that competition. She said the judging criteria includes looking for the degree of creativity and originality.

“Now I have a little bit of experience,” Fowler said.

McLeod-Hare said she was on track this week to meet her goal of having at least 30 contestants.

“We don’t have too many ‘bah-humbuggers’ around here,” she said, as she urged that other Lexington Park businesses that want to participate call her at 240-832-7638. “Call today.”

jwharton@somdnews.com