Niceville Sounds Anything But

Niceville, Florida sounds like a friendly enough place. But in discussing what should be done about the traffic generated by a popular home Christmas display things have reportedly gotten nasty in Niceville.

Resident Debbie Lewis, also known as the Christmas Lady, drew more than 5,000 people to her home last year to view her Christmas display. The display was shut down in 2006 due to liability and safety concerns. In an effort to revive the display, Lewis went before the city council to propose a shuttle bus that would take folks around Niceville for all city-wide Christmas events, including stops at her home.

But the city thinks it might be a better idea to just move her display from her home to a central city location that can handle the traffic and parking issues.

Complicating matters, a separate group known as the Niceville Community Guild is spearheading the Niceville Community Christmas event for 2007 — an arrangement already approved by the city council. Lewis proposed piggy-backing her shuttle stop to allow it to become an official part of those approved events.

Just one small problem: she failed to ask the group before presenting it to the city council. And that’s where things got nasty in Niceville.

“We do not wish to be drawn into Mrs. Lewis’ disagreement with the city,” Lynne Waltz, vice-president of the guild, told the council.

Council members urged cooperation between the two efforts. That might be a tall order because the sides seem to have different goals.

Guild members said the point of the Niceville Community Christmas was to set up at a central location at City Hall, not to bus people around town.

“Her vision is not our vision,” said organizer Connie Naftel. She said they wanted to work with Lewis to bring her display to City Hall, but Lewis wants to keep it at her home.

Will people play nice in Niceville? Will the Christmas Lady overcome the criticism to show her display once again? Can Christmas be Christmas at her home and will the city allow it?

These questions and more have yet to be answered with less than 130 days remaining until Christmas.

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