Out of 26 decorated windows in Ellicott City's historic district, a panel of judges couldn't resist the one with the animated Santa.
Carmen Cook's window in Taylor's Antique Mall took the top prize in the Ellicott City Restoration Foundation's first window decorating contest with old-fashioned Santas, carolers and other dolls, a white tree with lights and several moving pieces.
"I was just so delighted," said Cook, an Ellicott City resident, of her win. "It tickled me to no end."
Cook has been decorating the window in her section of the multi-dealer antiques store for several years with help from her husband, Edward. This year, she spotted the moving Santa at an auction and knew it would make a good centerpiece.
"I wanted something that would attract the children and be reminiscent of something older," she said. "Once I saw that Santa standing there, I fell in love with him."
The restoration foundation started the contest to add another appealing element to the historic district's holiday shopping season, said President Edward Lilley.
More than two dozen businesses signed up to participate. On Sunday, the panel of judges included County Councilwoman Courtney Watson, who was accompanied by her son, Jack, and from The View Newspapers, editor Phyllis Greenbaum, her daughter, and general manager Pete Cook.
"There was really a lot of interesting windows," Lilley said. "I think the animation is really what did it [for Cook]."
Cook will receive a quarter-page ad in the July/August issue of Maryland Life magazine donated by Howard County Tourism.
Visitors can vote for a "people's choice" award through Dec. 10 at any of the participating stores or at the Howard County Visitor Information Center on Main Street.
Lilley said his group hopes to expand the contest next year with more prizes and a raffle for those who vote in the people's choice portion.
Cook said she thought the contest added a note of friendly competition to the historic district, as merchants evaluated each other's windows.
"I think most of the merchants were really inspired by the idea of this contest," Cook said. "I saw a lot of people really looking at the windows."
Honorable mentions were given to Cottage Antiques, Wreath and Basket, and The Framer's Vise.