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Hopes dim for repair of Christmas light show in Lancaster

Twinkling white lights in trees will still sparkle along Central Avenue during Lancaster’s Christmasville, and the animated displays that once graced the former AM&A’s department store in Buffalo will delight onlookers in village store windows as they have for years .

But the nightly razzle-dazzle light show synchronized to holiday music along West Main Street likely won’t happen for the first time in nearly 10 years.

Village officials haven’t made a decision, but preliminary reaction to Public Works Superintendent William G. Cansdale’s assessment of the damage to the elaborate light displays from last November’s snowstorms and the $15,000 estimate to replace the lights and wiring resonated Tuesday with the village’s Special Events Committee.

“If the light show is in this much disrepair, and it would cost this much (to fix), maybe we don’t do it,” said village Special Events Coordinator Dawn C. Gaczewski . “Maybe it has run its course.”

Others, including Cansdale, have said the light show – complete with giant snowflake lights on the New York Store – is no longer the big magnet that it once was to the village’s Christmasville celebration from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. Attention instead has been drawn to the massive fire truck parade down Central Avenue, tied to the lighting of the Christmas tree at Central and Broadway.

Gaczewski expressed hope that she and the merchants could find a new idea to increase foot traffic during the holidays in the absence of the light show.

“Nixing the light show would not be devastating,” Trustee William C. Schroeder, also the committee chairman, said afterward. “Maybe it’s a good time to sit back and see what else we could enhance. These are things that make communities. We’ve always done Christmas up big here, and I think that’s what people expect. It’s kind of who we are and is part of our identity.”

Cansdale’s work crews begin putting up the lights in early October to get them all done and the show coordinated. The effort costs about $24,000 in labor, then add to it that his work crew is short three employees due to two job vacancies and one man out of work with a knee replacement.

“Not only are they damaged, but they are old,” Cansdale said of the lights, noting there are about 75 bulbs per snowflake and there are about 30 snowflakes alone. “The light show becomes more labor intensive as they get older.”

At the same time, Cansdale said he also is trying to manage leaf pick-up and tree trimming in the busy fall season. “Being short of manpower puts a burden on the department with its core responsibilities,” he said.

Village officials someday may consider holding a contest along Central Avenue for merchants to decorate their buildings. And if the snowflake lights are temporarily retired, they may be repaired over time and be used as stand-alone lights throughout the village during the holiday season.

The Village Board must decide by October whether it will scrap the light show.

“I wouldn’t say it’s out of the question to do a comeback” in the future, Schroeder said. But for now, “the village will probably look at the almighty dollar.”