VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- After more than 20 years, Holiday Lights at the Beach may go dark for 2017.
City Manager David Hansen recommended that city council members cancel the annual attraction, citing a variety of reasons including the condition of the displays and the electrical system which powers them.
Hansen wrote in a letter that accompanied a report about the program:
...the harsh, salty ocean environment, an aging stock of displays, and the requirement to install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters in the electric panels that power the displays have collided. For the reasons stated in the attached Policy Report, we are faced with a situation where we can no longer compromise the safety of our workforce and Oceanfront visitors in order to continue providing the displays on the beach.
The report offered four alternatives to holding the traditional Holiday Lights at the Beach:
- Put on a scaled down show for 2017
- Cancel the program for 2017, but explore options that could allow for its full return in 2018
- Cancel the Holiday Lights program altogether
- Rehabilitating and converting displays in an effort to put on a full show in 2017
Hansen said the recommended alternative was Option 2.
Tappahannock resident, Carol Smith said she hopes the lights display does not go away forever, but it does need an upgrade.
“Half the lights didn’t work. Some of them flashed and didn’t even light up and we were actually embarrassed that we had driven so far,” said Smith.
Every year, the lights rack up big bucks for Oceanfront businesses. Waterman's is one of those that are worried about any changes made.
“We, of course, just hoped to see a revamping of it,” said manager, Krystal Thayer. “Every car on the boardwalk with the lights drives past Waterman’s, so that itself is marketing we don’t want to see gone.”
Virginia Beach Hotel Association (VBHA) President Russell J. Lyons sent a letter about the program to Mayor Will Sessoms.
Lyons reaffirmed the group's support for Holiday Lights at the Beach, writing, in part: "They are a beloved tradition for our local community and provide vibrancy to the destination during the winter months."
Lyons stated that the VBHA was encouraged to know that there may be a short-term option for the program while the city worked towards finding a long-term solution. He concluded: "Please let us know if our association can be of any assistance to the City of Virginia Beach or to Beachevents in providing a viable solution."