Wonderland on Roseville: Fairfield Christmas tradition could end this year
FAIRFIELD — For 18 years, the Halliwell family has put on “Wonderland on Roseville,” a dazzling Christmas display featuring over 300,000 lights.
This year, however, could be the last, according to Gene Halliwell, a prospect that has him upset because it will mean the end of what he calls a “significant” annual donation to the Shriners Children’s Hospital in Springfield, MA.
“We’re not happy about it,” he said.
A petition with 45 signatures sent to the first selectman’s office from residents of Roseville Terrace and Sawyer Road is asking the town and police department to do something to control the traffic the annual display brings to the neighborhood. Those signatures represent 28 households.
From its opening on Thanksgiving, until the lights are turned off after New Year’s Day, the display draws thousands of visitors to 226 Roseville Terrace off of Black Rock Turnpike. Last year, the Halliwells said, they had a total of 30,000 visitors to the display, that includes multiple train sets, cases filled with nutcrackers of all shapes and sizes, a sleigh where visitors can pose for pictures, and even a small chapel.
“That’s not counting the drivebys,” Gene Halliwell said.
Find out more
Visit Wonderland of Roseville’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WonderlandatRoseville
Nadine Losquadro, a Sawyer Road resident, submitted the petition to the first selectman’s office and is currently working with the Police Department, in an attempt to control the traffic. Roseville Terrace runs into Sawyer Road, and Sawyer Road leads back to the Black Rock Turnpike.
Losquadro said the neighbors “appreciate the entertainment to the community and the charity that the Wonderland at Roseville brings. However, our concern is the event’s traffic and parking situation which presents a significant public safety concern for our neighborhood.”
For Losquadro, a compromise would be “no event parking” restrictions on Roseville Terrace and Sawyer Road, that would allow those who live on those streets to park on the street. Visitors to the display, she said, could utilize any of the parking lots on or near Black Rock Turnpike, with a crossing guard on duty. “It would be a detriment for us if we are officially prevented from parking on our street, or having our guests park on our street, during the holiday season,” she said. It should be noted, the closest town lots would be either McKinley or Holland Hill schools. Other nearby parking lots are privately owned. If the police put parking restrictions in place, those restrictions apply to all cars.
Police officials also said there is no way to enforce an “event” parking restriction.
According to Police Lt. Robert Kalamaras, temporary parking restrictions were put in place last year on one side of the street, closest to the display, and that will once again be the case this year. In addition, traffic will be one-way — cars will enter on Roseville, and leave via Sawyer.
Kalamaras said if they need, on days when the visitor counts are usually the highest, they can extend the restricted parking area. He said they’ve reviewed the daily visitor data compiled by the Halliwells, and, as expected, the highest totals were on the weekends, and in the just before Christmas.
“Maybe on those days, we put one of the traffic officers there,” Kalamaras said.
Losquadro said that alleviated traffic and parking in front of the display, “however, it funneled all of the traffic onto the cul-de-sac and onto Sawyer road. It seemed to make the situation worse.”
“We did not move into our homes knowing there would be, or could be, parking restrictions imposed on us for six weeks out of every year during prime holiday time,” she said. “The majority of homes on Roseville and Sawyer have small driveways and many residents rely on street parking.” Many residents, Losquadro said, have not been able to have family gatherings at their homes over the holidays because of traffic and parking problems.
“If this is not possible, it is hoped that the Fairfield Police Department will help us come up with an alternative safe solution,” Losquadro said.
Halliwell said they have not been approached by any of their neighbors with complaints about the display. “We’ve never had one person come to say ‘could you turn the lights down, or the music down,’ although we don’t have the music blaring.”
Halliwell said, in fact, one Sawyer Road resident recently told him they were looking forward to the tradition.
“It’s not everybody that’s complaining,” he said.
He said if they were to hire police officers, it would end up being too costly, leaving them with no money to donate to the Shriners.
And, he said, he fears that “no matter what we’ll do, it won’t appease some people.”
“The traffic and parking situation presents a serious public safety concern,” Losquadro said. “We thought the situation would be best handled by our town’s officials who are experienced with and responsible for traffic control and public safety. “
Losquadro has lived on Sawyer Road for six years, she said. “There are several elderly residents and many children who reside in our neighborhood, and their safety needs to be a priority,” Losquadro said. “If there is an emergency in the neighborhood during the time the event is running, it would be impossible for a rescue vehicle, such as an ambulance, fire truck, or police car to make it quickly or safely to any of our homes.”
According to police department records, there have been no reported incidents, including accidents, during the weeks the display is lit up.
“We’re trying to figure out what to do,” Maryann Halliwell, Gene and Mary Halliwell’s daughter who also lives at the house, said. “It’s probably our last year, it’s a real shame.”
Gene Halliwell said not only does the display raise money for children, it also brings business to local restaurants and coffee shops. “There will be businesses losing out,” he said. “People come here and have dinner and then go see the lights.” The petition may also mean an end to visits by Santa, which tend to draw the most people, he said.
The display opens to the public on Thanksgiving at 5 p.m., and there is no admission charged. The display stays on until 11 p.m. each night and shuts down for the season on New Year’s Day.