The war on Christmas burns brighter each year – except for in New Jersey, where local homeowner Thomas Apruzzi is finding the holidays a bit darker than usual. Apruzzi is the man responsible for tirelessly created the town’s largest display of Christmas lights, something he’s done with joy every year, for well over a decade. Now, all of that is in jeopardy thanks to red tape from local officials. We have the details.
- When we say Apruzzi goes all-out, we aren’t exaggerating. This year’s display contains over 70,000 lights shaped into bells, sparkling trees, holly leaves and berries, snowflakes and holiday greetings.
- Over the last 15 years, the display has become a holiday season focal point, drawing people together to share stories and create good will. Locals love it and out-of-towners consider it a reason to come to the small town yearly.
- Unfortunately, not everyone loves Apruzzi’s display. Old Bridge township has threatened to fine him up to $2,000 a day for simply trying to share his holiday spirit by hanging Christmas lights on his own property.
- It’s neither the power consumption nor potential distraction for drivers that has the town riled up. Instead, they feel the display is an “unmanaged spectacle” that attracts nearly 1,000 people each night, creating too much work for local police – work they should be responsible for, anyway.
- The town’s mayor also spoke out on official and unofficial channels. “My first and foremost duty as mayor,” he aid, “is to make sure our residents are safe, and that’s why I have made sure we have adequate police coverage. These precautions do not come without an added cost.”
- A press release (located here) states that Apruzzi’s display is angering neighbors, leading to traffic jams, and putting residents at risk. It also accuses news media of treating the mayor “unfairly” by over-focusing on his First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
- The statement also defines Apruzzi’s display as an “event” and states that all event provisioners should have to pay for additional safety resources. For larger official events, like concerts, this makes sense. It’s difficult to see how such logic applies to a free display of lights with significant out-of-pocket costs and no admission fee.
- Apruzzi claims his light display was never intended to create undue hardship, but he isn’t backing down, either. He’s refusing to pay the town’s hefty daily fees. “It’s my First Amendment right,” he explained. ““This is how I say Merry Christmas.”
- He also took the time to explain the history of the display and how it first came into existence. “Growing up I didn’t have much, so my parents couldn’t do big celebrations,” he explained. “So I began this for my dad, and he loved it up until the day he died.”