Kansas Man to Move 47-Year Old Christmas Display

Mike Babick, the Prairie Village, Kansas, resident so famously under fire for the Christmas display at his home after 47-years of Christmas tradition says he will avoid the new city ordinance aimed at Christmas enthusiasts like him and take his display somewhere else. According to local news reports, shown below, several area cities are offering to take on the display:

Kansas City Passes New Ordinance Effectively Killing Popular Light Displays

Gawkers come by the busload to see the Prairie Village house that owner Mike Babick has turned into a Christmas spectacle over the past 47 years.

Children gape at the thousands of twinkling lights. Grownups stare with joy and amazement at the hundreds of holiday figures and the robotic elves toiling away.

“Elves with hammers,” Babick said. “Elves with saws. Elves with candy canes. Elves with…”

Elves aplenty. Reindeer out the wazoo.

Yet Babick’s house at 7611 Falmouth St. may no longer be a must-see stop on the unofficial holiday lighting tour of Kansas City.

This week the Prairie Village City Council passed an ordinance that, Babick says, might make it unaffordable for him to carry on the tradition this Christmas. And he’s mighty bitter about it.

“It stinks,” he said Tuesday. “They’ve killed Christmas for me. Just killed it.”

City officials say that was not their intent in passing regulations Monday night that would require permits for any “special event” lasting five days or more that “is likely to or does in fact generate crowds … sufficient in size to obstruct, delay or interfere with the safe and orderly movement of … traffic.”

Babick consulted with an attorney Tuesday afternoon to consider his options. Also, the American Civil Liberties Union is having a look to see if Babick’s free speech rights are being infringed.

“It’s the goofiest permit ordinance that I’ve ever seen,” said the ACLU’s Doug Bonney. “Pretty clearly, this is targeted at this one guy.”

It’s easy to see why Babick might consider himself singled out. Only two other events currently held in the city would now fall under the ordinance, both Christmas displays: Candy Cane Lane and the Dorr Family Christmas Show near Shawnee Mission East High School.

But only Babick would likely have to hire off-duty police officers at the rate of $44.69 an hour, police spokesman Capt. Wes Lovett acknowledges, to handle issues associated with the large crowds that gather in his yard.

There’s a three-hour minimum, Lovett said, and Babick would most likely have to hire officers most Friday and Saturday nights, when the crowds are the largest, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s.

“It’s become a real safety hazard,” Lovett said of the display’s popularity.

In addition to complaints from neighbors about blocked driveways, litter, trespassing and public urination, the street becomes so clogged that, at times, it would be hard for an ambulance or fire truck to get through, police say.

However, Babick contends those problems are highly exaggerated. He picks up the litter each night and urges visitors to keep the street and driveways open.

“They’ve created a monster out of nothing,” Babick said.

For him, it started in the mid-1960s with one string of lights around his front door. Then he added another string and another. Within three years, Babick gave over his garage to those electronic elves.

Later, up on the rooftop, click, click, click, Babick installed a set of panels that he calls Christmas in Comicville. Soldiers stand sentry over candy canes in the front yard.

As his display grew, so did the crowds. By the thousands they came, causing friction within the neighborhood.

So the city stepped in. To help with traffic flow, Prairie Village decided in 1990 to turn that section of Falmouth into a one-way street for the holidays.

Police enforced new, temporary parking restrictions. Even some of the neighbors got tickets.

In answer to complaints about visitors tromping on neighbors’ lawns, the city poured a sidewalk on Babick’s side of the street. Minivans gave way to limousines and tour buses.

“The limos would pull up at his place and he just thrived on it,” recalled former neighbor Bob Myhre, who moved to Bella Vista, Ark., last year.

Babick doesn’t apologize for his enthusiasm.

“It’s because I love Christmas,” he said. “I love every part of it.”

Two years ago, Prairie Village police met with neighbors to hear suggestions on making things better. Police agreed to ease parking restrictions in front of their houses and to advise tour operators that they couldn’t idle their buses while passengers got out to look.

But problems remained, and work began on the ordinance that passed this week.

For now, most of the ornaments, figures and other elements of Babick’s display are where they always are this time of year, in a warehouse in the West Bottoms. Whether the retired AT&T technician hauls it all home Nov. 1 for the 48th annual installation will depend a lot on the opinion of his legal counsel — or whether he can raise the money to pay off-duty police.

If the holiday lights do go dark on Falmouth Street this year, Mhyre, the former neighbor, will have mixed feelings.

“It’s kind of a neat thing he does,” says Myhre, “but it wears on you.”

Middleboro Shuts Down the Lights Anyway

We thought this fight was over. Evidently not.

Middleboro’s Board of Selectmen has voted to ban Christmas lights on a spruce tree in a town park that was donated in memory of a World War I Medal of Honor winner. The tree was decorated last year by a woman who organizes the town’s Christmas festival. But the man who donated tree in memory of Patrick Regan, a World War I veteran, said decorating the tree was disrespectful and it was never intended to be “a Santa Claus” tree.

A few weeks ago a hearing was held to hear the complaints of veterans and others who opposed the lights. When no one showed up it was reported that the issue was resolved and that the lights would go up. But Selectmen voted 3-2 on Monday to ban lights on the tree. It turns out that feelings on the matter ran deeper than first reported and that differing parties had to be silenced at the town meeting yesterday to get the vote done.

“My family donated the tree as a living memorial, I never thought in my whole life it would be a Santa Claus tree … It’s a living memorial, not a Christmas tree.” said Robert Lessard, who opposed lighting the tree.

Caught in the middle of the controversy was the town organizer of Christmas festivities, Muriel Duphily. ” I don’t understand what’s the big issue,” she said. She held up pictures of her father, brothers, an uncle and an aunt and said the lights were never meant to disrespect veterans. “Think of the things I’ve done for the American Legion over the years,” Duphily said. “I never did this as disrespectful”

Selectman Stephen J. McKinnon, a disabled Air Force veteran from the Vietnam era, said the downtown looked like Pottersville before Duphily’s effort to instill the Christmas spirit, “It was dismal.”

McKinnon said Duphily brought people together and transformed the downtown.

“A lot of people had a good time, there was music, Santa, and the kids were enthralled. That’s one of the things I fought for,” he said.

“Let’s not light the tree. Let’s look for other decorations,” countered Selectman Steven P. Spataro. “I’m not going to turn the town upside down. The majority feel the tree does not need to be lit.”

It should be noted that the town is looking for an alternative tree and other arrangements for a festive display this holiday season. After the meeting, Paul L. Kreitzberg, treasurer of the Park Committee, said the committee’s offer to buy an alternative tree is still on the table. “We’ll stand by the offer, if asked we’ll get a tree.”

“Unless someone comes up with a tree, I’m quitting,” said Duphily after the vote. “You can’t have a tree lighting ceremony without a tree. If they want to be a corporate sponsor, gladly I’ll do it. We need to make this happen.”

Christmas Complainers Out in Force Already

You would think a down economy and the negative buzz of an election year would welcome the mere mention of Christmas. But no matter where you go in this world there is no shortage of whiners, moaners and complainers about seeing Christmas out and about in September.

In New Mexico comes the all-too common lament about stores selling — gasp! — Christmas decorations.

Down in Alabama, they are trying to put a positive spin on Christmas shopping. But Christmas is a beloved season of the year in the south. They need to read what the folks in Ohio are saying about shipments of Christmas products (basically they complain those Christmas trains are empty).

In Australia, they are talking about a Christmas store that has been open since — oh by gosh, by golly — June.

In Canada they’ve got a high schooler writing editorials about Christmas before Halloween. How will this kid ever get over it?

In Ireland they are shocked — shocked! I tell you — that stores have the audacity to sell Christmas stuff a mere 118 days before the Big Day. Never mind that those same stores sell swimwear year round. We all know what tropical haven Ireland can be.

But it is the UK who really gets their Christmas knickers in a twist. They just don’t want their Christmas biscuits to spoil on the shelves and they’ve taken to Twitter to complain about it. (That’ll fix ’em”.)

The real kicker? Santa has the, um, nerve to show his face FOUR MONTHS before Christmas in stores. Has the man no decency?

Brace yourself. This is just the beginning. Between now and Thanksgiving Day you are going to hear story after story of anti-Christmas blubbering as folks lament the early showing of Christmas. It will all be capped when Nordstrom posts their snotty sign about celebrating one holiday at a time.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Christmas is many things to many people. It is a religious holiday for some, a secular season for others. Some do not celebrate it at all. The fact that Christmas tends to show up months before makes it no different than seeing swimsuits in January, Easter bunnies in February or even playing baseball in April while the snow flies. It all happens but no one gets the complaints like Christmas. Christmas gets the complaints because people just assume it is all about the money.

It isn’t. So quit your whining.