No Christmas at Winterhaven?

The fate of the Winterhaven Festival of Lights is the topic at a special meeting tonight at the St. Frances Cabrini Roman Catholic Church, 3201 E. Presidio Road, from 6 to 7 p.m. Residents will vote on whether or not to continue the two-week holiday light decoration tradition that goes back to 1949.

The neighborhood event, which costs $85,000 to put on every year, lost city funding as part of the city's budget cuts. A plan to raise money through corporate and individual sponsorships hasn't been successful.

Winterhaven residents recently received this impassioned e-mail from their neighbor Karen Clifton:


We are at a critical point in our future as a Community. As you are aware, and for obvious reasons, the City of Tucson can no longer fund our Festival of Lights. Due to the effects of the recession, there is no money to fund us. Please make no mistake, all efforts have been made in this regard. Now, we need to move on!

Now we could chose from several options:

1. Stop having the festival after a 60 year run.
2. Fund it with minimum donations collected from the neighborhood.
3. Cut back considerably on the event, scale back and spend less money (still need to have some money).
4. Find long-term, sustaining corporate sponsors (small business, large business, locally owned business, businesses that benefit from the Festival, etc).

The Winterhaven Board of Directors and other neighbors working with them are struggling with this dilemma. They are tired of being the only ones who make and keep commitments. As a neighbor who takes some responsibility for
some events, but who is not involved directly in the Christmas event (other than collecting food and money for the food back on drive through nights), I feel I can speak out frankly!

We (you and I) came to this neighborhood to live BECAUSE it is a neighborhood where people know and help each other; we came to this neighborhood to live BECAUSE we have an Oasis in the middle of the desert, an Oasis with trees, bushes, flowers, and green grass; we came to this neighborhood to live BECAUSE there are celebrations of life for us and for our children—one of those celebrations is the WINTERHAVEN FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS. Without these special aspects of our Community, we are simply 1950's style tract homes. All of the items above create a neighborhood where people want to live and where property values are increased.

The first Festival was in 1949. Last year marked 60 years of Festival. Do we really want to end this tradition? Do we really want to let down the community of Tucson (well over 100,000 people came to see us last year)? Do we really want to stop funding the Tucson Community Food Bank? Last year we gave them $23,000 (which, by the way, buys them $207,000 worth of food, and we donated 33,000 lbs. of food. This food drive represents the 2nd.
largest annual food drive for the Tucson Community Food Bank. Do we really want to tell Tucson that we are stopping this tradition?