Lights Out

You can't beat City Hall

Mike Babick would usually be out tinkering in his garage this time of year, cleaning off the animatronic elves and animals that light up Santa’s Workshop in his annual Christmas display.
But this October, he’s refinishing some antiques out back instead.

And he doesn’t have any plans to work on his Christmas display. Any plans at all.
“It’s really looking like there won’t be Christmas here this year,” he said. “It’s sad. It’s really sad. But that’s the way it’s looking.”

Indeed, the way Babick sees it, there just isn’t a viable option for putting up the nationally known display like he’s done every year since the mid-1960s.

Not on Falmouth Street in Prairie Village. Not anywhere.

After the Prairie Village city council passed an ordinance in September that would have required him to obtain a “special events” permit, Babick explored the possibility of moving the display to a different community. But the more he looked into it, the less plausible it seemed.

“The fact is, some of this stuff is so fragile, if you tried to move it, you’d destroy it,” he said. “It’s baked in here. You can’t just take it out.”

And while he and his family considered asking his display’s many fans and supporters to pitch in to help cover the cost of a permit to keep the display on Falmouth Street — fees that could total around $1,500 — the idea ultimately rubbed him the wrong way.

“I’ve put this display on for 47 years and never had to ask for money,” he said. “I don’t see why I should have to now.”

Babick contends that just two homeowners on Falmouth are responsible for the vast majority of the complaints that led the council to take action affecting the display. And while the councilors who drafted the ordinance say it was meant to provide a standard for all attractions and events in the city, Babick says he feels singled out.

“I’m the one it impacts,” he said. “Read the ordinance and tell me it wasn’t directed at me.”

Babick knows that with each passing day it becomes increasingly likely that the display he’s invested so much time and energy in over the past half century will sit dark this year, packed away in boxes on the December nights when it usually attracts hundreds of families.

But he still holds out hope, if only a small glimmer, that a solution could emerge.

“Nov. 1 is when I usually start putting things together,” Babick said.”Time’s running short. But something could change. Maybe something could change.”

This article was included in the November 2012 issue of PlanetChristmas Magazine.

By Sara Kasey

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