NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The plug has been pulled on the popular annual holiday lights show at Jellystone Park. News 2 has confirmed the annual Dancing Lights of Christmas attraction in Donelson will not open this year. Owner Mike Scalf and Metro Councilman Jeff Syracuse both say they weren’t able to work things out in order to operate. It would’ve been the eighth year for the popular drive-through musical lights shows.
News 2 spoke with both men about the situation Tuesday night.Last year, organizers said 45,000 vehicles passed through the exhibit, congesting the already-congested area of Opryland and Opry Mills mill along Briley Parkway and Music Valley Drive. Jellystone Park also sits near a Pennington Bend neighborhood of over 1,000 homes. That’s one of the reasons the city and organizers came to this year’s decision to pull a plug on the event, as well as the inability to agree on a traffic plan, lease agreement, and proper permits.
“The reason we’re being singled out, we feel, is because we’re not Gaylord or Opry Mills. We’re a small veteran-owned little family Christmas light show,” owner Scalf told News 2. “We intend to pursue this. We’re going to ask our show followers to reach out to Metro Council Planning and Zoning and the mayor’s office and see if this injustice can be righted,” he continued.
However, Councilman Syracuse says it’s a matter of how big the lights show became. “In a way, they are a victim of their own success, and I congratulate them on that success, but they’ve really outgrown the capacity of that site to accommodate the event, and they’ve known about this for months,” he said. In a press release sent Wednesday, Scalf and co-owner Andy Eaton urged supporters to contact both Metro Council Planning and Zoning and the Mayor’s Office to encourage city officials to keep the attraction open for the season.
Scalf said in the release, “We were excited and set for the season – having hired employees, rented equipment and placed advertising. We were extremely disappointed to hear about Councilman Syracuse’s decision to shut us down. Contrary to what has been reported, we were not aware of his decision until we were contacted by a reporter Tuesday night.”
Scalf went on to say, “After numerous attempts to work with the city, we can’t help but feel we’re being singled out as the little guy. As I’ve said, we are a small, family-owned operation. We’re no Gaylord. Trying to shut us down right before the holidays is unfair and unjust. We are trying to stay positive and rally our supporters, but the lack of notice on this decision has put us in a hard spot.”Dancing Lights of Christmas says its been trying to work with city officials to alleviate the traffic woes, as well as zoning and leasing concerns, saying although the event “fits this zoning description, Scalf and his attorney communicated with city officials out of due diligence and were told repeatedly that they did not need a special permit.”
Scalf is also urging supporters to attend a public meeting Wednesday night at Troubadour Theater, where Councilman Syracuse will be answering questions at a holiday traffic meeting. Jellystone also took to Facebook, asking for the public’s help in getting the show back. Their statement said, in full:
Regarding the Christmas light show: First and foremost, we want to thank each and every one of you for your support. It is deeply appreciated. WE NEED YOUR HELP! For the past seven years, we have complied 100% with the city in every capacity. We are not required to obtain a permit, there are NO lease issues, and have always followed Metro police department’s traffic plan and suggestions at our own expense. We would like to ask all of our fans to reach out to Councilman Jeff Syracuse 615-862-6780 Jeff.Syracuse@nashville.gov, Douglas Sloan at Planning and Zoning 615-862-7150 Doug.Sloan@nashville.gov, and Mayor Megan Berry ‘s office 615-862-6000 to help us right this wrong, as we never agreed to “pull the plug” on the light show. We ask you to please be respectful with your comments but please let the city know your thoughts. LIKE OUR FACEBOOK PAGE FOR UPDATES AND ANY NEW INFORMATION ABOUT THE FUTURE OF OUR SHOW.
News 2 reached out to the mayor’s office for comment. Spokesman Sean Braisted said they’ve received some feedback so far since yesterday’s story made headlines. “There seems to be passion on both sides; both the residents impacted by the traffic and the visitors who have enjoyed the lights show in previous years. Hopefully concerned citizens will have the opportunity to hear from Councilman Syracuse and Metro agencies tonight at the community meeting to address issues like this,” Braisted continued.
In addition, a petition was created with a video message from the two Nashville residents behind the “That’s Classic” film production team. And we also learned Wednesday talks are underway to possibly move the popular Jellystone light display to the Wilson County Ag Center in Lebanon. Larry Tomlinson, General Manager, told News 2, “They are still negotiating. It’s a real possibility it could be moved to the Ag Center in Lebanon. We will know more tomorrow.”
– WKRN web staff
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