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Examiner
  • Turning out the lights on a Blue Springs holiday tradition

  • The lights will go out on a Blue Springs Christmas tradition this year after providing enjoyment for thousands over the last 30 years.

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  • The lights will go out on a Blue Springs Christmas tradition this year after providing enjoyment for thousands over the last 30 years.
    Steve Steiner, the man behind the Chicago Street Lights, has decided to retire from organizing the display. After years of considering stepping down, he has decided that this year will be his last.
    “For several years I have been asking myself, ‘How much longer will I keep doing this?’ I came close to hanging it up in the late 1990s before I discovered rope light. Switching all of the displays from mini-lights to rope lights saved me an additional month of preparation time each year,” he said. “I knew that someday I would retire from doing the lights, but after more thought, I felt it best to do it now, without any pressure from anyone, while I am still in good health, and at a point where I will be able to look back at nothing but great memories I have of the lights.”
    The display started as a simple idea in 1982. Steiner had visited a Christmas display in Illinois and got the inspiration to create a wise man and a camel out of surplus electrical wire, mini lights and duct tape. The next year, an animated angel was added, and with the excitement from neighbors and community members, he kept adding display after display.
    Now, there are displays at 60 homes in the Blue Springs neighborhood, covering more than a mile. All of the displays have been designed and crafted by Steiner. It is estimated that between 60,000 and 70,000 people drive through the display every year.
    “The hardest thing about my decision was thinking that I was letting everyone down. However, the public’s overall reaction has really helped me. When people first hear that this will be the last year, they are initially saddened. Then they express their gratitude and tell me that they don’t blame me at all,” he said. “I have enjoyed many things about the display throughout the years including the challenge of creating new and different types of displays, the joy the display has given to thousands of people of all ages, the money raised for local charities, the fact that I can share the true meaning of Christmas with others and knowing that I have established a local holiday tradition that has brought our community much fame and accolades.”
    The display is also known for collecting donations for area charities, more than $300,000 since the Chicago Street Lights display was started. The original intent was actually to help offset the cost of maintaining and constructing all the displays. But the amount of donations far exceeded that need, so the surplus was given to local charities. Today, donations are split among 20 to 25 local charities who help staff the donation stations at the end of the display every year.
    Page 2 of 2 - As for the future of the popular holiday tradition, Steiner said he believes the time for it in his neighborhood has come to an end. He said, however, he does not think it will be the end of the display forever.
    “For years the display has been the ultimate place to take the kids to look at Christmas lights. Once they drive through, most are amazed at the magnitude and spirit of neighborhood cooperation,” he said. “I vision the display finding a home with a church or a religious organization with plenty of land and a group of people to keep it going. I would like to thank all the residents for their patience and allowing me to put out the displays, the city of Blue Springs for helping to control traffic and all the onlookers that have helped donate over $300,000 to local charities over the past 30 years.”
     
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