Despite media speculation in the past two years that Lights in the Heights will slowly dim to darkness, the Woodland Heights street festival is still alive. It’s just that organizers want the event to revert back to a time when ludicrous – and lewd – visitors didn’t ruin the neighborhood.
This year’s over-sized block party is slated for Saturday, Dec. 8, from 6-9 p.m., and there’s a reason most in the area have seen very little publicity on the event.
“As strange as it sounds, the only publicity we really want is negative publicity, if that makes sense,” said Glen Sementelli, a co-chair of the event with Terri Guerra.
To some, that may not make sense. To others, especially those who live in the neighborhood, it makes all the sense in the world.
In 2010, the Woodland Heights Civic Association sought to make Lights in the Heights as big as possible. And they got their wish. More than 60,000 people attended the festival, complete with street vendors, live music, unlimited and illegal parking, and enough booze to drown the luminaries doting the curbs of Bayland and Highland.
This year, just like in 2011, organizers want to tame the night-long parade.
“We want to take it back to what it was 10 years ago,” Sementelli said.
Here’s what that means. The esplanade on Norhill, just as last year, will not have entertainment, and there will be no vendors working the streets.
“There are some illegal ones that do pop up, but we try to have them removed immediately,” Sementelli said.
In a sense, Lights in the Heights was developed to be a neighborhood party with homeowners inviting select guests. To the organizers of this year’s event – just as last year – there are reasons to keep the number of people attending a bit more controlled. For starters, putting on such a festival is expensive. The Woodland Heights Civic Association, which tries to raise money from the event, ends up spending as much money as they make on things such as police protection.
“It really grew to a point where people don’t respect the residents or our property, and we have to pay for this,” Sementelli said. “So now, our goal is kind of to make it more difficult to attend.”
The best way to do that, he said, is to make it less easy to park. “We’ve cut down on the parking, and there is no more illegal parking,” Sementelli said. “Now, illegal parking is being ticketed, and some cars may get towed.”
Here’s a better translation: If you are invited to attend by someone who lives in the area, or if you can walk to the festival, the Dec. 8 event will be a great time to hear live music and admire Christmas decorations. If you’re planning to bring a bus, double-park, or ruin homes along the pristine streets, it’s best if you find a different party.