With Thanksgiving comfortably in the rear-view mirror, many are looking forward to seeing the comforting glow of Christmas lights dazzling the night for the rest of the year.
But one man says the city of Old Bridge, N.J., wants him to pony up if he keeps his Christmas display going — to the tune of $2,000 a day, ABC 6 reported.
Tom Apruzzi has been putting on the massive holiday show for years, NJ.com reported. The 70,000 light extravaganza features arches, snowflakes, three tree-like cones, stars, and a display across the roof of his house that can show words and pictures. The whole thing is synchronized with music.
Apruzzi uses it as a fundraiser and has raised thousands for organizations such as St. Jude’s and Home for Our Troops, My Central Jersey reported.
But the massive popularity of his display has also led to problems, including complaints from neighbors about traffic and safety, News12 reported. Mayor Owen Henry said public safety officials had to be stationed at the area each night to control pedestrians and traffic, and that Apruzzi was on the hook for the cost of that service, at about $2,000 a day, according to the station.
“We’re only proposing to open 23 days this year,” Apruzzi said, according to My Central Jersey. “It’s 16 hours a week and they want to charge us $8,000 a week to direct people and tell them where to walk. In addition, it will cost me $750 a night for the shuttle service. The mayor doesn’t want to hear anything. He just wants to shut us down.”
He said he was going to fight back.
“We’re not gonna listen to what the police have to say,” Apruzzi said, according to NJ.com. “It is my First Amendment rights, it has to do with my religion.”
It’s not the first time the lights have caused controversy. In 2017, Apruzzi said things had gotten nasty because of feelings over the display. “There’s been a broken windshield on one of my trucks, there’s been spitting on sides of truck, harassment issues, starting to get pretty bad,” he said at the time, according to CBS2.
The mayor said he was not trying to shut down the attraction, but was “making sure that the event is held in an orderly and safe manner,” according to News12.
A GoFundMe was started to raise $75,000 to keep the light show alive. As of Wednesday, it had raised about $1,300 of that goal.
“It is the foot traffic that has stirred up some of the scrooges which have collaborated with local government officials behind closed doors in an attempt to shut down the show,” the GoFundMe says. “The Apruzzi family is so passionate about sharing their light show and dedicated to continuing the annual traditions for their neighbors as well as Homes For Our Troops, that Thomas is determined to fund the first couple nights out of his own pocket. Please help Tom and Kris continue this holiday tradition this year!”