Thomas Apruzzi and his wife, Kris, have been hosting a Christmas light display at their home for about 15 years in Old Bridge, New Jersey. The Apruzzis’ automated light show comes with synchronized music.
In 2014, the house was featured on ABC’s “Great Christmas Light Fight” and drew national interest.
Since then, people across the United States have traveled to witness the spectacle dubbed the “T&A Sprinkler Light Show.”
This year, however, the Old Bridge Township told the Apruzzis that they will have to pay about $2,000 each night the light show is on.
Tom Apruzzi, who has lived in the township for more than 44 years, said that the mayor and the chief of police told him the display would be shut down if he doesn’t pay, according to My Central Jersey.
Apruzzi says the fees are “bureaucratic baloney,” NJ.com reported.
The Apruzzis’ Facebook page is encouraging people to donate to their cause at a GoFundMe page started by Roger Aubuchon. They are determined to hold the show, even if they do not raise enough money to cover the costs required by the city council.
“We’re not gonna listen to what the police have to say,” he told NJ.com. “It is my First Amendment rights. It has to do with my religion.”
“I am a Catholic and I believe very much in Christmas,” he said, according to WGRZ.
“That’s how I express myself—through my lights. There is so much negativity in the world that if I can make people happy just one day, why not?”
The Apruzzis’ light show is set to run from Dec. 1 to Jan. 1 on Thursdays through Sundays, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and for the entire week of Christmas, according to the Bridgewater Courier News.
While light show is free for attendees and people are welcome to leave donations. Over the years, the Apruzzis have been able to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Hospital and Homes for Our Troops. Last year, they raised more than $8,000 for Homes for Our Troops—a charity for injured military veterans.
It Used to Be Free
Police officers have patrolled the area free of charge in previous years.
However, according to Himanshu Shah, a township administrator, the crowds have been growing each year and have created unsafe conditions. Cars would be parked on both sides of the 24-foot wide road while the crowd walked in the middle, he told NJ.com.
“It is the foot traffic that has stirred up some of the scrooges which have collaborated with local government officials behind closed doors in an attempt to shut down the show,” Aubuchon wrote on the GoFundMe page. “As the holiday week progressed, a few influential residents were able to persuade the mayor and chief of police to set unrealistic monetary stipulations on the family.”
Township officials and Apruzzi had reportedly come to a consensus in 2017 to allow parking on only one side of the road. Despite this, Mayor Owen Henry said that residents continued to send in complaints to the council, NJ.com reported.
The city council also considered making Apruzzi’s street and the surrounding streets as resident-parking only at a public meeting with about 100 residents on Nov. 19. However, on the day, the council received “a unanimous vote to proceed, without any stipulations,” Aubuchon wrote.
On Nov. 26, the Apruzzi couple were called to meet with the mayor and the chief of police to talk about last minute details regarding safety and logistics—but it didn’t turn out that way.
“The mayor and chief of police informed Tom and Kris that they would need to pay the township police department $2,000 per night for police coverage, as opposed to using the auxiliary police group they used for the last several years. Furthermore, they will be required to shuttle folks in from the local school, at a cost of about $1,000 per night,” the GoFundMe page said.
“I told them that’s not going to happen,” Apruzzi said, according to WGRZ. “My Christmas lights are going on. The mayor keeps saying it’s a safety issue. It hasn’t been a safety issue the last 15 years. The township had all year to figure it out.”
When asked about the shuttle service, the mayor told My Central Jersey that no one had ordered Apruzzi to provide it.
“We recommended it,” he said. “We thought it was a great idea to bus people in and drop them off at the corner. That would be great, but he wants us to pay for that.”
Mayor Henry said the fee would pay police officers overtime to serve as security on the nights, and the cost of moveable light posts to light the street, NJ.com reported.
Henry denied claims that he and the chief of police had threatened to shut down the show if Apruzzi doesn’t pay up.
“We have not told Mr. Apruzzi to shut his light off. We have not and I will not,” Henry told My Central Jersey. “I’m not a grinch. It’s all about public safety. We need to take the steps necessary to make sure that event goes off in a safe, orderly manner.”
“I think it’s amazing how all of a sudden in a matter of about 12 hours the mayor is changing his story now,” Apruzzi told My Central Jersey.
The Show Will Go On, Mayor Says
Henry said that while the light show is on, parking will be permitted on one side of the road, and there will be a safe walkway set up on the other side of the street.
“We will keep a travel lane open throughout the neighborhood for the nights the show is scheduled to go on,” Henry told My Central Jersey.
Access to the Apruzzis’ street will be limited to residents only.
“We have determined that that additional police resources is going to cost the township of Old Bridge—every taxpayer in Old Bridge—about $2,000 per night. That is money that is not in our budget. That is money that the council is going to have to make an emergency appropriation for.
“As the mayor and the chief of police, we have no choice. Even if the council doesn’t go there, I still have to go there.
“At the end of the day, we are going to expend to this money—$45,000 or $50,000 of hard-earned taxpayer money—regardless of whether he is going to reimburse us or not. The residents of Old Bridge are paying for this. They have to acknowledge that. We have to make sure that that venue is safe.
“I assume he will be sent a bill on Monday for what it cost us over the weekend to show him where it stands,” Henry continued. “It could be more or it could be less. If we don’t see big crowds coming, we can reduce it. If we have big crowds coming, we’ll have to increase our presence.”
While the Apruzzis are encouraging people to donate to their fundraiser, which has a goal of $75,000, Apruzzi says the show will go on regardless of whether enough money is raised.
From NTD News