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Hartford's Lame Festival of Light Sparks Even Lamer Excuses

Helen Ubinas

December 01, 2010

People were mighty disappointed in the Festival of Light at Bushnell Park the other night.

In case you missed it, it went a little something like this: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.


Ever since, people have been all atwitter about Hartford getting it wrong -- again.

Without a doubt, it was embarrassing to see Hartford fail to do something as basic as putting on a holiday light show.

But more disappointing than the lack of lights were the lame excuses the display sparked from city officials and festival organizers.

The less than oohh and ahhh inspiring lights was the plan all along, they insisted - something different.

They were worried about squirrels chewing through the strings of lights, about electrocuting birds.

Not to mention possibly damaging the historic trees.

And from Mayor Pedro Segarra when television cameras turned to him that night: It's an evolving display. Ay Pedro, really? That's like saying we're going to have a special kind of July 4th celebration where we'll be rolling out one firework a year until some grand finale in the distant future.

(Shawn Sienkiewicz/FOX CT shot)

I'm not trying to pick on Segarra. I like the guy, and I want him to succeed.

When I called him about the lights, he asked if he could stop by the office to talk. Segarra insisted his initial plan was to have a winter festival in the park with a skating rink where city kids could skate for free. It snowballed into a light display, he said, when he reluctantly agreed to include lights because of decreased funding for the Constitution Plaza holiday display.

Whatever happened, this debacle clearly wasn't one person's doing. But as I told Mayor Segarra, the buck stops at the top and he's at the top now and, recently announced, looking to stay there.

Segarra has been a good caretaker of the city since the abrupt exit of our disgraced former mayor. He's gone after low, albeit, important, hanging fruit with the demolition of the Butt Ugly Building and cleaning up the parks.

After a little cajoling, Segarra said he was disappointed with the light display too. But he quickly added, it's a lesson learned and he hopes the city isn't defined by one flick of switch.

Unfortunately a less than inspiring flick of a switch is exactly the kind of thing by which people judge a city.

And if Segarra is going to be the kind of leader the city needs he cannot make or tolerate excuses when things, however big or small, go wrong.

For starters, I suggested, he should have told everyone to stop with all the excuses and owned up to the flop of light festival. That holiday display, I told him, was a lot like inviting a bunch of people over to dinner and not having enough food.

Damage control is in overdrive now - everyone's insisting they are going to do it up big when they open the skating rink in the park Dec. 10.

That's great. I just hope the disappointed visitors give Hartford another chance to do the festivities up right.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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