Gordon McAloney of Bath won first place in a holiday decorating contest for his display, which features so many inflatable decorations, McAloney said he lost count. Photo courtesy of Main Street Bath

What do a Vietnam War veteran, two history buffs, and an Elvis impersonator have in common? They love decorating their Bath homes from foundation to roof for the holidays.

Vietnam veteran Gordon McAloney, 70, won first place in Main Street Bath’s Old Fashioned Christmas Neighborhood Decorating Contest. His yard is littered with inflatable Christmas figurines, including an inflatable nutcracker that stands two stories tall.

Though he said his passion for creating large Christmas displays started after he moved to Bath about 25 years ago, he dabbled with decorating when he did two tours in Vietnam.

“Back in those days, I had some cheap Christmas lights and I decorated my tent there,” said McAloney.

Robert McAloney (center) won first place in Main Street Bath’s Old Fashioned Christmas Neighborhood Decorating Contest. Photo courtesy of Main Street Bath

McAloney said he decorates heavily as a reminder that Christmas comes after the winter solstice – the shortest day of the year. Once Dec. 21 has come and gone, the amount of sunlight Maine sees starts to increase, minute by minute.

“We’ve already seen the shortest day of the year and now we’re going to start seeing an increase in sunshine and I like that; it’s all positive now,” said McAloney. “I look at it differently knowing that we’re heading toward summer again, and summer is my favorite time of year.”


Main Street Bath, a local chapter of a national network that seeks to revitalize downtowns and promote economic development, launched its Old Fashioned Christmas Neighborhood Decorating Contest last year because of the limitations the COVID-19 pandemic placed on holiday events.

“We had reduced the amount of things we could physically do together as a large group in 2020 and this seemed like something we could slide in really easily,” said Main Street Bath Director Amanda McDaniel. “Plus as a downtown organization, we don’t often have the capacity to reach our events further out into the residential community. Since this seemed to be yet another pandemic Christmas, we decided to do it again.”

Main Street Bath creates a map of the homes that entered the competition, then residents can tour the neighborhood before voting on their favorite decorations.

McDaniel said the competition garnered enthusiasm last year, with 27 homes signed up to compete. That participation seemed to fade this year, however, as only 13 households joined the competition list, according to McDaniel.

McAloney said he was thrilled to see all the homes glittering with lights and decorations last year but wished more households had competed this year.

“Last year was the first year we had this contest and a lot of people decorated their houses and I thought it was great to see all these houses lit up,” said McAloney. “I would like to see more people decorating. I think they’re really pretty when they do that.”


McDaniel said she isn’t sure whether the competition will continue next year, but the city’s Holiday Trolley service will run through neighborhoods to look at light displays regardless.

Meg Baker (left) receives a second place award in Main Street Bath’s Old Fashioned Christmas Neighborhood Decorating Contest. Photo courtesy of Main Street Bath

Self-proclaimed history buffs Meg and Ben Barker of Middle Street in Bath won second place for their largely homemade decorations this year. Their display features a pine tree and star on the side of their home meant to look like the original Maine state flag from 1901. The real centerpiece of their display, however, is a boat towing Maine’s major exports throughout history: lumber, ice and fish.

During the academic year, Meg Barker works as a librarian in Fisher Mitchell School in Bath, but she recently started her own historic walking tour business in Bath. Ben Barker works at Hamilton Marine in Portland and leads tours at the Maine Maritime Museum.

While they said they’ve come to love both learning and teaching Maine’s history, the pair moved to Bath from Washington DC just five years ago. They said wanted their decorations to be festive while paying homage to Maine’s history.

“This is the perfect coming together of our passion for history,” said Ben Barker.

“We’ve learned a lot of the history of the area in five years and this feels like a natural extension of that,” said Meg Barker. “Could you imagine people in the 1850s looking forward to us making light of these major economic drivers of Maine.”


Aside from tapping into their passion for history, Ben Barker said spending hours decorating their home for the holidays was “a way to ground ourselves.”

“I’m originally from Dallas and Meg is from L.A. and I associate Christmas with traveling,” said Ben. “I think part of why we enjoyed decorating the house so much is because it was a way to ground ourselves here.”

Robert Lewis, an Elvis, Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond impersonator, stands outside his Bath home. He won third place in Maine Street Bath’s holiday decorating contest. Photo courtesy of Main Street Bath

Robert Lewis, Bath’s resident Elvis, Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond impersonator, won third place for his display on Andrews Road in Bath’s North End. Lewis’s Christmas display, featuring a small army of smiling snowmen and a few minions from the children’s movie “Despicable Me,” is anything but blue.

Lewis didn’t return requests for comment Thursday.

Meg and Ben Barker of Bath said they wanted their holiday decorations to pay homage to Maine’s history. Photo courtesy of Main Street Bath

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