Chris Lowe started planning before Thanksgiving how she would decorate her shop windows for the holidays this year. After all, she has a title to defend.

Last year, her store’s display won the city of Sandy Spring’s first holiday window-decorating contest, so she’s got a reputation to live up to as the city prepares for its second round of competition.

“Sparkle Sandy Springs” kicks off its second season in December. The competition for business owners is sponsored by the city, Sandy Springs Hospitality and Tourism and the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce.

Bean Head Toys won the first “Sparkle Sandy Springs’ holiday decorations contest last year with this window filled with elves. Participants in this year’s competition are to have their displays ready for judging Dec. 15 and Dec. 16.

“I love the concept of it,” said Lowe, owner of Bean Head Toys, 220 Johnson Ferry Road. “I think it’s such a great idea. Sometimes, like when you’re in a little ski village and the downtown is all lit up, it adds flavor to the holidays.”

Last year, Lowe took first place in the contest for her display, which included “a whole bunch of elves riding balance bikes,” she said.

This year, she’s thinking about using Christmas trees in the display. “I’m going to have to ramp it up,” she said.

The competition is open to all businesses within Sandy Springs. Businesses interested in taking part in the competition must register, city officials said in a press release. Registration forms and competition guidelines may be found at .

“The contest is meant to be a fun, lighthearted initiative to shine extra light on our business community,” Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos said in the release. “Last year, our entrants were able to capture the festive nature of the holiday season. It will be exciting to see the event grow, including more of the retail community.”

Displays will be judged on creativity and originality, best express of the theme, best use of lighting, best use of available space and overall design quality and presentation.

Displays will be judged Dec. 15 and Dec. 16. Businesses taking part in the competition are asked to keep their lights on from 5:30 p.m. until midnight on those days.

For more information: .

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.