Light Fights in Florida

A Florida man known for his over-the-top holiday displays is battling the wrath of neighbors up-in-holiday arms over his annual Christmas Holiday Show.

Rick Newman of Boca Raton, Fla., is well known in the seaside community for the elaborate light and music displays he has staged twice a year, at Halloween and Christmas, for the past four years.

While his displays attract huge crowds of merry celebrators, they also attract controversy.

City officials threatened to shut down Newman’s Halloween show in October because of its live performances that featured 20 teenagers dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

This month, it’s his neighbors who want the show not to go on.

“There are two people that wake up in the morning being mean,” Newman told ABCNews.com, describing his most outspoken neighbors.

“One neighbor put up a barrier so that no one could park,” he said. “He’s a true Grinch. He comes over at night and yells at people.”

Newman’s Christmas display comes complete with more than 20,000 lights and Christmas figurines, all choreographed to holiday music broadcast on a PA system until 10 p.m. seven nights per week. There’s also fake snow and a real, live Santa Claus.

Newman, who has a background in sound engineering and nightclub production and now owns a DVD duplication company, says the show routinely draws at least 500 people on weekends, and crowds of 200 to 300 each weekday during its approximately six-week run from Thanks giving to the new year.

The un-neighborly fight over Christmas has been well-publicized in Boca Raton, but it hasn’t diminished crowds in search of Christmas cheer.

The show is so well-known that a local radio station broadcasts its soundtrack during the height of the Christmas season.

“People have come out of the woodwork in support of what I’m doing and think this is absolutely ridiculous,” Newman said. “This isn’t the hugest display in the world. This is just lights done to music and people like it.”

While the city’s concerns over Newman’s antics in October centered on whether his “Thriller” dances violated neighborhood code ordinances – they backed down only at the last minute after Newman agreed not to stage live performances at future shows – this time, officials say, Newman’s show is fine, but his neighbor’s actions are not.

“He told police he would remove the barriers but instead reinforced them this past weekend,” Newman said, referring to his neighbor, who has remained anonymous in the fight.

“The barricades are on the public swale so people cannot pull over to watch the show,” Newman said. “Their [the city’s] only concern right now is that the neighbors, because of what they did, created a parking hazard.”

Calls to Boca Raton city officials for comment have yet to be returned.

The neighbor who placed the barricades around Newman’s home hasn’t lived in his home for three years while it undergoes renovation, according to Newman.

The neighbor has not spoken publicly about his actions, choosing to wage his Christmas battle in the street, not the media.

Adding to the drama, and public’s interest, is Newman’s using his annual displays to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

He raised nearly $2,000 during this year’s Halloween display alone that featured the “Thriller” performances. That was more than the $1,400 he collected for last year’s Halloween and Christmas displays combined.

“All this is going to do is hurt the kids who come here and the ones who aren’t fortunate enough to be able to make it here,” Newman said.

Leave a Reply