Christmas is just two months away, but one Melbourne suburb won’t be celebrating with its usual flair this year after being forced to cancel its iconic Christmas lights display.
For years, people all across Melbourne and Victoria have flocked to Hugo Court in Narre Warren to catch a glimpse of an impressive light show full of fun, magic and festive cheer. While thousands of families were anticipating residents of the close-knit community putting on another spectacle in 2018, it appears red tape has ruined yet another Christmas tradition.
Originally taking to the official Hugo Court Christmas Lights page in August, residents who put on the light show each year informed fans that because of the large volumes of families visiting the lights each year, residents would need to fork out $20,000 to cover the cost of traffic management demanded by the local council. They called for assistance and donations and said they were working with council to organise a traffic management training program. Sadly, despite their best efforts, it doesn’t look like things went to plan.
In fact, heartbroken residents confirmed Christmas was officially cancelled and that they’d simply become “too big” for the lights to continue.
“Due to the number of visitors we are getting we are now classed as an event and to run an event we must supply traffic management and public liability insurance which is in the 10s of thousands of dollars, traffic management alone is $23K,” a statement on Facebook read. “As we do the lights for fun, for us to pay these costs it is no longer fun so unfortunately Hugo Court Christmas Lights is no longer.”
The message confirmed there would be no lights at all in 2018 and encouraged people to pass the message on as residents could still be forced to pay traffic management and insurance costs if spectators continued to show up. Heartbroken fans lashed out at the Casey Council for its Grinchy attitude.
One person wrote: “How is it your problem, you guys are just putting up lights and having fun with Christmas spirit… you don’t charge anyone to come and have a look, you don’t advertise an event, you don’t have open hours to come and see. It’s just a coincidence that you and your neighbours have the same Christmas spirit and live next door to each other.”
Another comment read: “City of Casey please reconsider. In your current action plan you talk of a strategic direction of wanting Casey to be the place to be for attractions and bringing the community together. Fun fact- most of us obviously prefer a family friendly, fun, magical (once a year) experience that is about giving and appreciating a selfless act rather than yet another pointless architectural wasted metal sculpture in hidden playground number #45.”
A third added: “What a joke. The council spend millions on a new building with rate payer money but won’t fork out money to provide Christmas lights for the people of Casey #CityofCaseyIsAGrinch.”
In a statement obtained by News.com.au, Casey Council said Hugo Court residents made the choice not to conduct the Christmas lights.
“Sadly it appears it has become a victim of its own success, following concerns around traffic management and anti-social behaviour over the past few years, including from Victoria Police,” the statement read.
Eager fans have offered to help cover the costs, while others have even said they would assist with security and crowd control. Unfortunately it seems as though the damage is done, with a further message from Hugo Court Christmas Lights explaining it’s about more than just money.
“To organise everything that we now have to do as an event is very time consuming, we would have to basically form a committee, creating an official group to be able to apply for the insurances and to handle the money side of things,” the message read. “We are all extremely busy and just don’t have the time to organise all the requirements.”
The message also explained that the lights wouldn’t be going ahead as planned out of respect to neighbours in surrounding streets.
“They have to put up with not being able to get into their properties, noise, rubbish, people parking on their lawns [and] even people urinating on their front lawns,” they explained. “We all love the lights and the Christmas spirit but it has just got too big for us to handle.”
Starts at 60 has contacted Casey Council for comment.