Special Olympics suffers after Grand Haven nixes Holiday Road Light Show

9:06 PM, Sep 18, 2013   |    comments
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Fourteen homes with nearly 300,000 computer-controlled lights made up "Holiday Road" in Spring Lake Township.

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WZZM) -- The board responsible for the Holiday Road Light Show on the lakeshore says the event is permanently retired.

Each year the light show raised Money for Special Olympics. The cancellation has Special Olympics Area 12's director looking for a new way to raise money for his athletes.

The Holiday Road Light Show has been in three different spots since it started in 2006. Last year the fundraiser set up in a strip mall in Norton Shores. This year, the charity event asked the city of Grand Haven for permission to use a section of Franklin Avenue.

"During the event we have eight to ten volunteers helping out," said Mark Dalman, Area 12 Director, whose group was the sole charity the event supported. "$80,000 is what our budget is each year and this is going to hurt us."

Dalman says the light show raised about $30,000 for his organization's annual budget. But Monday night Grand Haven's City Council said no to the light show.

"Without the Holiday Road Light Show, we will have to cut some of the programming," said Dalman.

Commissioners feared the show would have a negative impact on the downtown business district. Traffic and public safety concerns were also raised and commissioners said too many event details were unknown.

"The show is a long duration, it goes from Thanksgiving to Christmas. A lot of people depend on that time for business to carry them into spring. And you are taking a chance that it is going to work or it is not going to work. It is a big responsibility for city council, and so I think we made the right decision," explained  Grand Haven Mayor, Geri McCaleb.

Set-up for the elaborate show starts months before opening night. So Tuesday the Holiday Road Charities Board of Directors permanently retired the event. Dalman is sad to see the end of the show's run and he's already looking for another big event to raise funds to support the athletes he works with. 

"It is not just the competition, but it is a social event. Some of these kids do not have opportunity to go out and participate in events like this. They stay in hotels, they stay in dorms. It is huge," said Dalman. 

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