Wonka Theme Reigns Supreme in Sixth Annual Holiday Decorating Contest

By Samuel Lopez, staff writer
Photo of an Oompa Loompa decoration in Building 430

One of the Oompa Loompa mannequins gazes out of the Wonka factory’s glass elevator in Building 430. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)

Oompa Loompas set up shop in the hallways of Building 430. Building 362 shimmered with holiday lights and glitzy casino décor. Someone pitched a tent in the Scientific Library.

For the sixth straight year, the Recreation and Welfare Club’s Holiday Decorating Contest transformed parts of NCI at Frederick and the Frederick National Laboratory into whimsical scenes of festive cheer. It also brought a major upset: Building 430 clinched first place, ending the two-year winning streak of the reigning champion, Building 362.

“Buildings 362 and 430 have had a friendly rivalry for years during this contest. We each currently hold two first-place wins. It feels awesome to beat them this year!” said Stacy Taylor, administrative assistant in the Enterprise Information Technology Directorate and a member of the 430 team.

Building 430’s award-winning display turned a nondescript office space into Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory from Roald Dahl’s 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and its later film adaptations.

A seven-foot-tall model of the factory’s gate stood in the building’s foyer. On the second floor, iconic scenes from the book and movies, like the “Egg-dicator” and the riverboat, lined the hallways. Candy decorations plastered the walls and hung from the ceiling, while Wonka boxes were stacked in abundance. For the judges, however, the crown jewels were three handmade, life-sized Oompa Loompa mannequins.

“We knew victory was ours when we added the Oompa Loompas to the display the Friday before judging,” Taylor said, adding that the team spent five hours putting up the rest of the decorations on a Sunday in December.

Despite losing its grip on the top spot, Building 362 finished in a respectable second place with its “Vegas Christmas,” which recreated many of the city’s famous casinos, landmarks, and attributes—with a holiday twist.

A canopy of lights and paper garland cut into hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds adorned the entryway, alongside wrapped packages decorated to resemble dice. Down the hallway, a cashier’s booth gave visitors poker chips (free of charge) so they could play the casino games scattered throughout the building. Rather than win money, competitors earned points and vied for first place on a scoreboard. Elsewhere in the building, they could stop for a photo in the iconic Wedding Chapel or admire a large illuminated cardboard replica of the Paris Hotel’s half-size Eiffel Tower.

“In my opinion, my team is number one in creativity and effort, but coming in second isn’t too shabby. Honestly, the fun is in the competition, and when you compete there is no guarantee you will come out on top,” said Jillian DeShazer, manager of the Web Development Group and part of the 362 team.

“We are now preparing to drown our sorrows about losing with virgin martinis prepared in our fake lounge and encourage the winners to come join us in a victory toast to the season,” she added.

In third place, Building 539-1CB’s “Abominable Snowman and Friends” rounded out the winners. Artic and alpine creatures ranging from penguins to moose romped and roamed underneath a ceiling that dangled with dozens of snowflakes, while the abominable snowman himself peered overtop the employee mailboxes.

“We love the decorating contest! It just adds a bit of festive team-building during the season, gives us a chance to enjoy time with coworkers outside of the normal day-to-day stuff,” said Karen Saylor, research associate in the Laboratory Animal Sciences Program in 539-1CB.

Several other participants received honorable mentions for their decorations: the Scientific Library in Building 549 (“Woodland Holiday”), the Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory at the Advanced Technology Research Facility (“Reindeer Stable”), Melissa Kuehnert and Jasmine Loyal in Building 433 (“Reindeer Games”), Brad Wiley and Mike Fitzpatrick in Building 1050 (no theme), and Nichole Davis in Building 244 (no theme). (A typographical error in the December 23 Listserv announcing the competition’s results mistakenly listed the final three competitors in a different scoring category.)

The gate to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory in the Building 430 foyer. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)Building 430’s decorations incorporated concepts from the book, the jungles found in parts of the Wonka factory, and traditional holiday candy. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)One of the candy-themed corridors in Building 430. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)The front door to Building 362’s “Vegas Christmas.” (Photo by Samuel Lopez)One employee’s desk doubled as the cashier’s booth for the miniature casinos scattered throughout Building 362. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)Building 362’s salute to the Paris Hotel, including a replica of the Eiffel Tower and a playable roulette table. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)The gaudy Vegas-style employee lounge in Building 362. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)The abominable snowman (upper left), mascot of Building 539-1CB’s theme, watches over the decorations. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)One of the snowscapes in Building 539-1CB. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)Building 539-1CB’s theme showcased a variety of animals playing together in the snow. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)The Scientific Library’s “Woodland Holiday” blended modern and antique objects, like this sled, that one might take on a winter camping trip. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)Winter woodland creatures were scattered throughout the Scientific Library’s decorations. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)A cozy campsite and the book tree comprised the centerpiece of the Scientific Library’s theme. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)The Nanotechnology Characterization Laboratory’s “Reindeer Stable” brought a small part of the North Pole to a cubicle wall at the Advanced Technology Research Facility. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)First-time competitors Melissa Kuehnert and Jasmine Loyal say their “Reindeer Games” door was inspired by a love for the holidays and a desire to creatively decorate their limited space. (Photo by Melissa Kuehnert)Brad Wiley and Mike Fitzpatrick joined the competition this year by setting up two trees, including this one, in Building 1050. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)The topper on Wiley and Fitzpatrick’s second tree—the Grinch wearing a Baltimore Ravens hat. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)Nichole Davis, another newcomer, also added two festive trees to her office. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)Davis’ second tree. (Photo by Samuel Lopez)