BILLINGS — Since 2013, former Billings resident Angie Whitecotton has compiled a list of the best Christmas light displays in town and this year is no different with more first-time displays making the map this year than ever, Whitecotton said Sunday.
"This year, there’s a whole lot more first-time people on the map. I think there’s more first-time houses on the map than I’ve ever had," Whitecotton said.
Whitecotten was born and raised in Billings and left for Idaho two years ago, but she still compiles the Christmas light map with the help of a local associate.
“It’s something that I can’t walk away from," Whitecotton said.
The idea was first sparked when Whitecotten saw a gap in the market, with no maps being published until midway through December.
“Most everybody that I know who does Christmas lights, they put their lights up around thanksgiving to the first of December. At that time, nobody was putting any kind of a map out of houses until the week before Christmas. To me it seemed ridiculous to not have a map of some sort of all of these people who have their lights up for weeks," Whitecotten said.
Each year, Whitecotten adds and subtracts houses from an interactive Google map and separate list and makes them available to the community for free. She is also the administrator of a Facebook group that's all about Billings Christmas lights.
“I use pretty much the same map each year. I just copy it and go through and verify which ones are still doing their lights and which ones aren't and just add and remove as people submit," Whitecotton said.
The community at large has spent more time in their homes this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whitecotton said people are really chomping at the bit this year for some holiday cheer and an activity that is socially distanced to get them out of their homes.
“I don’t know about the owners, but the people definitely are. I’ve had a lot of people asking weeks ago when the map is going to be out. And I’m like, well most people don’t put their lights up until at least Thanksgiving. So, I usually post the day after Thanksgiving," Whitecotton said.
When asked about the must-see displays, Whitecotton couldn't pick just one out of the many on the list.
“There’s a lot of them. It depends on which area of town you want to go to is what I usually say because there’s just so many good houses in Billings. There’s no way you can do the whole map in one day. If you did, you would be stopping at a house for two seconds and going," Whitecotton said.
Applications to get on the Christmas light list are open until Christmas day. To view the map or find an application, visit Whitecotton's web site by clicking here.
Since her move to Idaho, Whitecotton said she's found someone to possibly take over the mapping duties in the future.
“I have a guy who came on this year to try and help me with the page a little bit that lives in Billings. He’s just kind of watching how things go to see if he’s okay with wanting to take it over," Whitecotton said.