NORWALK, Conn. — There will be no drive-through holiday light show at Calf Pasture Beach late this year.
The Seaport Association has withdrawn its application to use the beach, a public park, for the extravaganza, planned as a fundraiser to be erected by a vendor.
“When discussions began in October (2020) we expected to have the project approved by now…but it looks more like July. The chosen vendor will build a custom show which will place significant demands on our time as we are planning for the Oyster Festival,” Norwalk Seaport Association President Mike Reilly said in a June 2 letter to Interim Recreation and Parks Department Director Ken Hughes.
Drive-through holiday light shows have become popular in recent years; the Magic of Lights in Wallingford is said to offer “favorite holiday scenes and characters of the season using the latest LED technology and digital animations.” Children can hear Santa speak to them through the car radio at the Santa Lights of the Lake Drive Thru in Bristol. Westchester’s Winter Wonderland Drive-Thru Holiday Light Extravaganza in White Plains reportedly featured “1.2 miles of illuminated exhibits, costumed characters, music via the car radio, and appearances by Santa.”
Calf Pasture Beach is the only Norwalk facility large enough to accommodate the traffic the “very high-end, well put together event” would attract for about six weeks, Reilly and Norwalk Seaport Association Business Manager Gerald Toni told the Common Council Recreation and Parks Committee in May. They checked out Matthews Park, Veterans Park and Cranbury Park but found them to be too small.
“Typically, these run a mile to a mile and a half long,” Toni said.
A maximum 700 cars would have been admitted on Wednesday and Thursday, and 900 Friday through Sunday. The show would have begun at 5 p.m. and ended at 10, leaving the beach open to the public during the day, from Nov. 24 to Jan. 2.
But, “At each meeting we’ve been asked to add restrictions to the event…fewer days, caps on the number of cars, time slots, no on site sales, early daily sales cut off times, pre check in for time slots, then check in for tickets,” Reilly wrote June 2. “While all are with good intentions to manage traffic, each one made the event less consumer friendly and more costly to the Seaport.”
The Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association (ENNA) opposed the event, Diane Cece said in May. Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik were concerned about traffic flow.
Recreation and Parks Committee Chairwoman Darlene Young (D-District B) said she loved the idea, “I think it would be great for the community, and families like myself with young children.”
On June 9, Young said, “I think it became, you know, more involved than they might have thought. But the door is open for other things.”
Reilly, in the letter, said, “We consider this a temporary setback not a final decision. We believe a holiday event whether it is a light show or another configuration would be a good fundraiser for the Seaport and good for the City of Norwalk… stay tuned!”
“I would certainly hope that we can continue to keep the dialogue open,” Manny Langella (D-At Large) said June 9. “I for one personally thought this would have been an amazing event for our constituents, especially during the peak of the pandemic. I think that it, it certainly could provide, no pun intended, a bright future for us.”
“I hope we can find a suitable area, because I feel like it’s a good idea,” Council member George Tsiranides (D-District D) said.
“We are a destination city and that’s how we kind of sell ourselves, right? And so, it’s always good to try to always have those exciting things that are going to keep people coming to the city, and bringing resources to the city,” Young said. “We all know that the Seaport Association, it’s been around here for a very long time doing that sort of thing. And so, whatever iteration they come up with, for some sort of light show … it’s always worth taking a look at. The difficult part for us is balancing those types of activities, while not, you know, angering too many of the residents that we have to look out for as well.”