Mayor Charles M. Brunner made the call with a heavy heart. During long winter nights, it always gave him a lift to see the lights all aglow.
But this year, even Santa is getting downsized. It's too expensive for the struggling old lumber town to hoist him up to the roof and keep him twinkling.
With budgets tightening and corporate sponsors vanishing, communities from coast to coast have moved to trim the trimmings. They're hiring fewer elves and renting smaller floats for their Christmas parades. They're stringing fewer lights.
Santa bookings have dropped so steeply that the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas, which represents 700 jolly souls in red velvet, held a series of meetings to discuss their economic survival. Among the tips: If clients can't afford an extended Santa visit at $125 an hour, offer them a quickie drop-in. "Have him read a story to the group instead of having everyone come sit on Santa's lap," suggests Nicholas Trolli, who says bookings are down 50% for the 20 Santas he represents along the East Coast.
This trend of skimping on civic cheer comes as a blow to many families. Their holidays at home will be more modest this year. Office parties will also be subdued. Now they can't even count on cherished holiday traditions in the town square.
Speaking of Santa, residents of the Triad should be sure not to miss "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" next week/weekend. I play Comet.