69. Christmas on Canal in NSB draws sparse crowd

Top 100 Stories of 2013 Daytona Beach-Orlando Metro Area / Headline Surfer®

Cindy Jones pushed for fake Christmas tree on Canal / Headline Surfer®Headline Surfer videos by Henry Frederick /
Christmas on Canal features Santa Claus, the lighting of the CRA Christmas tree and horse drawn carriage rides. The five-year holiday tradition has run up a tab of $120,000. A little boy from New Smyrna Beach whose parents moved here from France a few years ago is featured in the latter two videos. Cindy Jones, a Canal Street merchant, pushed for the artificial tree's purchase in 2009.
 

NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- It's called "Spark the Spirit on Canal," but each year the CRA-sponsored event draws lesser crowds with the tree lighting and political speeches, parents tugging their little ones into a hut to have a photo taken with Santa, perhaps a horse-drawn carriage ride and then the mad dash home -- in an about 20 minutes or so.

Such was the case in late November after Thanksgiving weekend with the Community Redevelopment Agency-sponsored-event sought by Canal Street merchants Debbie Peterson and Cindy Jones, who pushed for and got CRA funding in 2008 for an artificial Christmas tree on Canal Street that then-Mayor Sally Mackay justified, saying it would last 10 years.

But like anything in politics, you need to read the fine print. The tree lighting has cost closer to $70,000, when the costs for wiring, putting it up ands taking it down, plus the holiday lights on Canal and Flagler Avenue, all paid for with CRA funds.

That's in addition to the $50,000-plus for a series of lightly attended "Spark the Spirit" events pushed by Jones and Peterson, all at taxpayer expense through CRA funding.

The two businesswomen also received several thousand dollars annually in funding from the Southeast Volusia Advertising Authority each of the first three years, but then that funding source dried up when they could not demonstrate the event was putting heads in beds -- meaning there were no out of the county tourists.

Fae tree on  Canal Street in New Smyrna Bech / Headline Surfer®Chrismas on Canal was deserted 60 minutes after the program began / Headline Surfer®Headline Surfer® photos by Henry Frederick /
Canal Street was deserted about an hour after the tree lighting ceremony as shown here. At far left is the artificial CRA tree.
 

The 2013 Christmas tree lighting on Canal drew about 150 people, who gathered around the artificial structure, which was located this time around at the north end of Christmas Park.

It had previously been on the southern end of the half-acre parcel for a couple of years and before than on the eastern end of Canal and Riverside Drive near the Intracoastal Waterway. 

And while Mackay pushed for the tree in 2009 when she was seeking re-election, it was the politician who barely beat her that year, Adam Barringer, who has had the luxury of giving his annual Christmas speech with the artificial tree lighting each of the past five years.

This time around, his speech was far shorter and he was gone in a flash. Perhaps he didn't want toto have to justify the $120,000 in CRA-expended funds to a reporter holding a video camera. Then again, Peterson and Jones didn't stick around either once the reporter showed up.

The Christmas on Canal has been sponsored annually by the Daytona Beach News-Journal, meaning the municipality has paid the News-Journal advertising revenue to promote the event, but Headline Surfer® has been the lone media outlet to actually cover it each of the past five years.

A horse drawn carriage was among the main features of Christmas on Canal as shown in these two video clips.
 
A float created by a a youth group at St. Paul's Church was on display as shown in the video at left and the New Smyrna Beach Utilities Commission holiday ornament shines on the rooftop of its building.

 

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Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com since 2008. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed close to a hundred award-winning byline stories nearly evenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in West Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.