The annual Christmas light display on Crown Point Parkway has made national news the previous number of years due to its massive display of seasonal illumination and the carloads of people that have visited the annual month long event.
However, even Clark Griswold from the movie “Christmas Vacation” could not have imagined what is currently taking place.
What is taking place is Dan Hoag, the man who began the cul-de-sac lighting display 20 years ago, is being sued by Kevin Roberts, a neighbor who claims a fireworks display on Thanksgiving ruined his dinner and damaged his property.
Roberts is seeking $3,000 in small claims court. The case is scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday, Jan. 30 in Berea Municipal Court.
For the last two decades, families on Crown Point Parkway in the Chandler Commons subdivision have launched the holiday season at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving with a lighting ceremony.
The pyrotechnics took a vacation in 2011 because someone called the police and the skyward illuminations were shut down before they started.
According to the complaint, filed by Roberts on Dec. 13, the fireworks display has been going on for seven years and his Thanksgiving dinner was ruined. Roberts’ complaint states that a sibling was leaving his house on Thanksgiving night and was harassed by the crowd gathered outside to see the Thanksgiving festivities.
“It wasn’t that my sibling had a problem getting through the crowd. The problem was that she was heckled as she was going through the crowd,” Roberts said.
Roberts was one of the individuals who helped the display get started a number of years ago. Things changed around 2000, according to Hoag.
“He helped do a lot of the wiring. He helped put up the lights. He was there in the beginning when we got started,” Hoag said. “He is not happy unless he’s making other people miserable. It’s a sad thing because he was a friend up until 2000.”
Roberts admitted to being involved when the lighting spectacular began, but said the disagreement has been going for some time.
“Years ago I was very involved. I helped him with all his decorations. It’s been a long neighborly feud. It continually gets bigger and bigger every year to the point where it’s endangering people’s lives and property,” he said.
The disagreement between the neighbors got so bad at one point that Roberts’ late father, who was 87 at the time, cut the wires to Hoag’s outdoor speakers.
According to Roberts, his main beef with the fireworks has to do with the direction they are shot, proximity to his house and the lack of precipitation leading up to Thanksgiving.
“The fireworks go off in all different directions. The fact of the matter is there is no safe way to shoot off fireworks. They are not safe to begin with. All you can do is make them as safe as possible and that’s not what he is doing,” he said. “If anybody would tell me that’s a safe display of fireworks with houses 50 feet apart after a dry season then I guess that’s fine. But until that happens it’s not right. One of these days he’s going to hurt somebody.”
The Crown Point Parkway holiday display includes hundreds of thousands of lights on houses, in yards and on archways that line the sidewalks throughout the cul-de-sac. Eleven families were invited to appear on NBC’s Today Show when the street was featured in 1994.
Santa Claus takes up residence in Hoag’s garage on a specially built throne on the weekends. Three donation boxes are on site each year so visitors can give to a local charity or family in need. More than $4,000 was donated this past season to the family of an 11-year-old Parma boy battling stage-4 brain cancer.
Hoag views the Crown Point Parkway Christmas display as a conduit for tourism. It wasn’t the original intention, but bringing people to Strongsville that may not have visited without the exterior illumination is an upside of the seasonal lights.
“We did the Santa routine in 1993 and it went over very well. We’re an attraction. We’ve had people from Youngstown, Erie, Columbus and even people from Europe who were visiting,” he said. “It’s good for the city. It’s a positive image. If people didn’t show why should I do this? I can’t see any downside. It’s free. It’s safe. What am I doing wrong? We’re giving people a nice Christmas experience.”
Hoag said that at one point Roberts was calling the police to the Crown Point Parkway display for a number of reasons including loud music, too many children, the presence of Santa Claus and too many cars.
“The police would show up and say there was no problem. Eventually Mayor (Walter) Ehrnfelt brought him (Roberts) in with the law director and said, ‘Look, he’s not doing anything illegal. We can’t stop him nor do we want to stop him,’” Hoag said.
Roberts stated, “I’ve been calling the cops for seven years and they do nothing. There’s a grand potential for fire. Nobody in their right mind would take the liability to do what he is doing. There is no reason whatsoever to have fireworks on Thanksgiving evening. If people want to spend Thanksgiving evening watching his lights light up that’s fine, it’s a festive thing to do. But to do what he does is not great.”
Hoag begins the process of erecting the display just after Labor Day. He began the process of taking down his Christmas light display on Jan. 2 and was still at it as of Jan. 19.
“The 41 nights that the display was up last year is nothing compared to what goes on behind the scenes. To me Christmas is an eight-month project.” Hoag said.
Lawsuit or no lawsuit Hoag still plans on erecting the display and launching the fireworks in 2013 and beyond. He said he would fight the complaint in court.
“This is a tradition for a lot of people. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what we’re doing,” he said.