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Off-campus students ‘Light up the Night’

Joe Podelco / Lantern photo editor

Off-campus residents are decking the halls for the eighth straight year as part of Off-Campus Student Services’ annual “Light up the Night” holiday house-lighting contest.

The contest is hosted by Community Ambassadors, representatives for off-campus streets who put on events such as the May Madness Cornhole Tournament and cookouts during Fall and Spring quarters.

“This is by far the largest event we put on,” said Nick Dominique, co-director of the Community Ambassador Student Program, adding the contest draws more than 1,000 students each year.

The event started in 2002 as a way to make the off-campus area feel more like home, Dominique said.

“We thought, ‘What are things you do at home in your own neighborhood?'” said Sean McLaughlin, assistant director of Off-Campus Student Services.

Registration for the contest began Nov. 8 and closed Tuesday. Dominique said 113 residences registered for the contest.

Prizes will be awarded to the top three houses, greek houses and apartments. The three winners in each category will be awarded between $100 and $1,500 in Best Buy gift cards, depending on their category and placement.

Coca-Cola is paying for the best house and apartment prizes, and the Interfraternity Council will buy the best greek house prizes.

Phi Gamma Delta has won the Greek category every year since the contest began in 2002. Last year, its fraternity house featured a rose on its roof, symbolizing the Buckeyes’ shot at the 2010 Rose Bowl.

This year, their display was themed after the fraternity’s annual philanthropy event, the Rivalry Run, where members of the group take shifts running a football to the stadium where the Buckeyes will play Michigan.

The run benefits the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research, said Ryan Lynch, a member of Phi Gamma Delta.

Voting began online Wednesday and at the kickoff party at the Ohio Union on Wednesday night. Voters could see a slideshow display of the homes before they cast their ballots. The party also featured an ugly sweater contest, a station to make cards for soldiers and sick children, free food and the opportunity to take “awkward family holiday card photos.”

“It’s a good, festive time,” Dominique said. “We encourage people before and after the party to look at the lights.”

Online voting will continue until noon Friday, when the winners will be announced.

In a new twist to the contest, some of the community ambassadors and the group’s co-directors will travel to each first-place residence and personally present prizes, Dominique said.

McLaughlin said the contest’s only challenge has been lost marketing time because of the extended Thanksgiving weekend.

However, he expects participation and attendance to grow. In 2009, 330 people attended the kickoff party, up from 235 in 2008.  

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