A New Jersey town is forcing one man to pay $2,000 a day for Christmas decorations on his own home.
According to NJ, Tom Apruzzi has transformed his Old Bridge home into a winter wonderland for 15 years with an automated display and synchronized music, attracting up to 1,000 spectators a night. His neighbors have since grown tired of the 70,000-Christmas light display and have now enlisted the help of the local government to quash his spreading of holiday cheer.
“Apruzzi said his show puts smiles on attendees’ faces during what can be a difficult season of the year,” reports NJ. “But his neighbors said the crowds and cars parked on the road make it dangerous for everyone.”
Old Bridge officials told Tom and his wife, Kris, that they must pay $2,000 per night for police security, which would include the cost of “paying officers overtime for the evening, moveable light posts to light the street, and fuel to power the movable light posts.”
In previous years, the streets would be patrolled by auxiliary police officers with no experience in crowd control at no cost. As the crowds have grown over the years, city officials say the situation has become untenable. Apruzzi now claims he has been subjected to “bureaucratic baloney” and has now started a online fundraiser of $75,000 to pay the fees. Whether or not he raises the money, Apruzzi, a Catholic, says his First Amendment rights have been violated.
“We’re not gonna listen to what the police have to say,” he said. “It is my First Amendment rights; it has to do with my religion.”
While Apruzzi’s neighbors may not like the light show, the city residents love it, and have arguably been his biggest supporters. In 2017, when the city council considered zoning the area for residential parking only, people outside the neighborhood showed up for a public meeting to voice their disapproval.
“A lot of pro-light people do not live over there,” Mayor Owen Henry said, who lives near Apruzzi’s house. “We have to make sure it as safe as we possibly can.”
Apruzzi’s home went national in 2014 on ABC’s “Great Christmas Light Fight.” Since then, people have traveled from New York and Pennsylvania to see it. The popularity has truly enraged some people in the neighborhood and some have expressed it to Apruzzi violently.
“Apruzzi said someone regularly spat on his truck,” reports NJ. “Once, someone shot out his window with a BB gun, forcing him to install surveillance cameras. The incidents have pushed Apruzzi, a resident for 44 years, to consider moving towns to a neighborhood ‘that is Christmas-light friendly.'”
Mayor Owen Henry and Police Chief William Volkert say they do not want Apruzzi to “pull the plug” on his light show, only take responsibility for crowd control. One possible solution might be allowing people to park off-site and shuttling them to the 12-minute light show. Like all potential solutions, that has a whole host of other problems.
“The township, officials said, won’t allow people to park on its property for liability purposes, and Apruzzi would likely have to find someone who owns a private parking lot,” reports NJ. “Apruzzi said he would need an additional $1,000 a day to shuttle attendees from a nearby parking lot, though Henry questioned the figure.”
Apruzzi’s light show has never been a business. Frequently, he collects charitable donations from visitors. Previously, he raised $8,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and $13,000 for Homes For Our Troops.