For decades, Jack Steppelman's holiday lights have brightened the hearts of young and old throughout the holiday season. Now, organizers of the city's holiday lights contest are honoring him with a new award.
"We're calling it "The Spirit of Christmas Award' because his display really embodies the spirit of Christmas," said Phil Stiles, a supervisor for the city parks department, which helps organize the annual contest.
Organizers on Wednesday presented Steppelman with a plaque at his home at 1122 Leslie Blvd. Unlike other award categories, the award won't necessarily be given out annually.
"It's not going to be a standing award," Stiles said. "It's just an award that's given out to an individual or family that over and over again does a fantastic job with their Christmas displays."
Steppelman has been known for his displays since he owned Jacques Distinctive Fashions on High Street decades ago. He had extravagant window displays there long before the city's Living Windows event, and, for decades, has consistently had one of the city's most-visited home displays.
He's won in various categories of the contest in past years. This year, he also won the "City's Best Award" in the 5th Ward.
Shortly after being informed of the new award in his honor, Steppelman said he felt honored. "I think it's just wonderful. I'm very, very happy."
He said there's been a big turnout of visitors to his home this year. "Everyone has been so nice and complimentary. It does make you feel good that people enjoy it," he said.
Steppelman has previously said that, at age 81, this is likely the last year he'll be putting up his Christmas display, a process that starts in early July. For that reason, Stiles encourages people to make the drive to Steppelman's home.
"If they make one stop this year on their holiday outing looking at the lights, this needs to be No. 1 on the list," Stiles said.
When asked after he received the award whether he would continue the tradition, Steppelman said: "After this, I almost have to, don't I?"