A New Jersey man has vowed to fight town officials who want to fine him for his extravagant Christmas lights display featuring tens of thousands of lights, MSN is reporting. Tom Apruzzi says putting on a garish outdoor Christmas display is his First Amendment right, while neighbors and city of Old Bridge officials say it’s a safety hazard.
Every neighborhood has that one neighbor whose approach to outdoor Christmas displays is “Go big or go home,” eschewing the simple and understated in favor of putting the Vegas Strip on their front lawn, electric bill be damned. And while Clark Griswold’s attempt at such a display was played for comic effect in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, neighbors and town officials don’t find Apruzzi’s situation funny at all.
Over the past 10 years, Apruzzi has spent probably $150,000, by his own estimation, on the Christmas lights and decorations that make up his elaborate Christmas display, consisting of over 10,000 lights. So startling is his display that he and his family appeared on the TV show The Great Christmas Light Fight, where he competed with other families for a cash prize (he didn’t win).
“I just love Christmas.”
People come from far and wide to see the display, dropping a few bucks in a donation jar in the process. What doesn’t go toward the electric bill goes to a charity that helps severely disabled veterans. He estimates that in the six years he’s been taking donations, he’s raised maybe $30,000.
It’s those visitors that are the source of the problem, say neighbors and Old Bridge officials. They believe that having that much foot traffic on a suburban street, to say nothing of the vehicle traffic and lack of parking, creates a safety hazard. Emergency vehicles would be hard-pressed to get into or out of the neighborhood, for example, if they had to fight off crowds.
And that is precisely why Old Bridge Mayor Owen Henry is giving Apruzzi a choice. He can take the display down; he can direct visitors to park off-site and have them shuttled to his home (at his expense, of course); or he can pay a fine of $3,000 per night (Philadelphia NBC affiliate WCAU-TV reports that the proposed fine is $2,000 per night).
Apruzzi is having none of that. He says he will continue to put up his Christmas light display, and if the town doesn’t like it, they can fight him in court.
“If they shut me down, they’re going to have to talk to my attorney. This is my First Amendment right. Free Speech and Free Religion.”
Apruzzi says that he will start a crowdfunding effort to accept donations to pay for the fines he’s undoubtedly going to receive.