The November storms that dumped 7 feet of snow on Lancaster last year are still taking their toll. In fact, they’re now taking some of the twinkle out of Christmasville.
The snow hit just as village public works crews had finished putting up the elaborate lighting display up and down West Main Street, designed to be synchronized to festive holiday music. The lights were badly damaged, some even destroyed.
“It was a Charlie Brown Christmas last year because only half the things worked,” said Public Works Superintendent William G. Cansdale.
Now, it could cost the village about $15,000 to replace the lights and wiring, Cansdale said. Then there are the labor costs for Cansdale’s workers to put up the lights and take them down with bucket trucks that run about $24,000.
Cansdale feels that it would be a push to even get that repair work and bulb replacement done in time for installation that takes weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.
And then there’s the dwindling interest in the fancy light show, as attention seems to have shifted to the annual Christmasville fire truck parade, which draws dozens of trucks decked out in Christmas lights and baubles.
“It’s not ‘bah humbug.’ It’s being pragmatic about how things have changed,” said Cansdale, who intends to recommend Tuesday night that the light show be scrapped. “None of the businesses stay open later because of the light show. When it was new, it drew people. It’s no longer an asset. … It’s time to scale it back, given the cost.”
At issue is whether the 10-year-old light show is worth fixing, with some people saying that abandoning it would constitute an early visit by the Grinch. But others say that it makes sense to end it. Ultimately, the Village Board will decide.
Last year, the village spent $26,306 overall on Christmasville, including overtime and the tree lighting at Central Avenue and Broadway, with $8,500 generated in revenues, mostly through sponsorships.
Village officials indicated that they are still committed to the traditional lights on street trees and the lighted wreaths along Central. It’s uncertain what the future holds for the animated displays that originally were in the former AM&A’s department store on Main Street in downtown Buffalo.
The light show and a cost review will come up for a full review Tuesday during a Special Events Committee meeting.
A decision needs to come soon. The work crews usually have to start installing the lights in early October.
Trustee Kenneth L. O’Brien III agrees with Cansdale about cutting back on the light show.
“We should just put up the lights on the street trees and forgo the light show because it’s getting old,” O’Brien said. “We should do the basics. Do the firemen’s parade, which is a huge draw for the village.”
Special Events Coordinator Dawn C. Gaczewski said she would like to see the light show continue if she can find a way to not burden taxpayers. She said that she met recently with business owners and that they want the show to continue.
“The merchants would like to keep the light show and animated windows because it is a draw for that area at Christmas and showcases our village,” she said. “People come from Southern Ontario and Ohio.”
Gaczewski acknowledged that the light show needs work. “I would like to keep it but would like to seek out sponsorships to offset the cost of new lighting that is needed,” Gaczewski said. “But I don’t want to burden the taxpayers or use taxpayer funds for that nature.”
The lights typically “dance” to music each evening for a few hours, usually ending at about 9:30. The last few years, the evening music was by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, though Gaczewski said that this had grown old and that she was planning different music this year. During the day, traditional Christmas music was played.
Trustee William C. Schroeder, who heads the committee, said that parts of Christmasville need refreshing and that some of it has become expensive. Still, he said, he would like to see the village have white lights on its trees along the sidewalks year-round. “If we had the money, I’d like to see the whole street’s buildings lit up along Central Avenue,” he said. “Logistically and financially, it might be prohibitive.”