|A popular display in Lakeview Heights in West Kelowna that featured about 36,000 lights and included two ferris wheels will be set up on the Kelowna waterfront next year.|
The spark was Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray reading a front-page story accompanied by a photo in The Daily Courier on Dec. 21.
Jerry Budnick of Lakeview Heights had announced that it was the last time his elaborate display would be set up at his 2265 Bridgeview Rd. home, that he was donating his thousands of lights, decorations and special features, such as ferris wheels and waterfalls, to the Capri Rotary Club.
An excited Gray "instantly" phoned Budnick and then a Rotary representative asking if the display could be set up on public property in Kelowna as a Rotary fundraising project. On Monday morning, city councillors agreed its permanent home would be the Kelowna Yacht Club's current site.
Demolition of the Water Street Senior Centre is scheduled to begin in late January or early February and construction of a new yacht club headquarters to begin in July, councillors heard Monday. Then the existing clubhouse will be torn down to expand Stuart Park. With construction underway on the new HQ extending through next Christmas, a temporary home for the display will be found, said Gray.
"By the way, I paced off his yard; it's 150 feet. It's a large residential display that clearly over the years got out of hand," said Gray, noting it grew so large during the past 13 years that it took Budnick and Rotary volunteers three months to set it up and dismantle it.
The mayor had suggested to Rotarians that the display could go into Rotary Beach in the Mission, in Jim Stuart Park downtown or several other locations - "somewhere where more people can see it and keep it out of a residential neighbourhood, which can be quite an imposition if it is successful which it is, obviously."
Rotarians took all Budnick's decorations down on Jan. 2, carefully stored them in steel bins and they are now in a secure undisclosed location on city property.
"Council discussed it this morning and decided that the appropriate location would be north of the skating rink in Stuart Park, roughly where the yacht club building now is. To me, it just seemed obvious. Council thought it was obvious. It's already earned its right to fame," said Gray, noting the city has security there and it would be covered by the city's insurance.
"Maybe over the course of time, it will even wind up being larger. There might be some commercial organization, such as Fortis or Tolko, that might want to put in decorated trees."
Over the years, the display was converted by Budnick to high-efficiency LED bulbs which brought his electrical bill down to $600 a season from $2,000. The city would pick up that minor cost, said the mayor.
The city would maximize the exposure while "promoting Rotary, Rotary's good work and ability to fundraise" in an area that is not in a neighbourhood.
"This New Year's Eve in Stuart Park was very successful so you know that's going to continue. It would end up being quite a display on New Year's Eve. We're all very excited. One of the councillors made the observation that by having it there, you could see it across the lake when coming into Kelowna. It would be quite an impressive sight reflecting on the water."
Virtually every square inch of Budnick's lawn was covered with decorations, which included four Santa Clauses, snowmen and reindeer. "I describe it like a little Disneyland," said Budnick. "We've had people who came here the first year when their baby was born, and they've come back every year since then to check out the lights."
Over the years, Budnick asked people who view the display to make donations to a variety of local charities, such as the Kelowna Women's Shelter and Arion Therapeutic Farm.