Atwater pulls the plug on holiday tree lighting *

*Update: The tree lighting ceremony is back on. The Eastsider

Last year’s elaborate Atwater Village tree lighting ceremony attracted a big crowd and controversy. This year there will be none of that. Organizers of what would have been the 18th annual tree lighting next Friday have decided to let the approximately 50-foot tall redwood tree in the Glendale Boulevard median remain dark this season because of budget and permit problems. “It’s very disappointing,” said Atwater Chamber of Commerce Secretary Luis Lopez, who oversees the tree lighting ceremony, said this morning.

Atwater will still hold a Winter Wonderland celebration next Friday night but there will be no tree lighting – usually heralded by the arrival of Santa Claus riding a fire truck – as there has been in years past.

Lopez said organizers were stunned earlier this month when the city’s Bureau of Street Services estimated it would cost about $11,000 – or twice as much as last year – for its employees and contractors to decorate the tree with lights and ornaments. Lopez said he and others involved in the tree lighting -including the office of Councilman Eric Garcetti, which pays the tree lighting bill – thought that was excessive (The Eastsider is seeking comment from the council office). After the street services agency wouldn’t come down on its estimate, the chamber scrambled to get bids from private contractors. They were pleased to discover that one company – a firm that decorates the holiday tree at the Americana at Brand in Glendale – would light up the Atwater redwood for about $5,000.

However, event organizers later discovered that they might not be able to resolve city permit and inspection issues soon enough to allow the private contractor enough time to schedule workers and decorate the tree, Lopez said. So, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the organizers decided to do without the tree lighting. “We couldn’t waste any more time to make this happen,” he said.

Next Friday night will still find Atwater Village holding a Winter Wonderland celebration, compete with snow bubble making machines, carolers, live music, dancers and, of course, Santa. But, come around 6 pm, there will be no ceremonial flicking of the switch to turn on the Atwater tree. “That’s not going to happen,” Lopez said.

Photo by C.M./Flickr

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