Usually around this time of year, the house at 7611 Falmouth is hard to miss. Even during the day, the dozens of figurines and lights that make up Mike Babick’s nationally known Christmas display stick out from his house with bright colors.
But this year is different.
Permanent floodlights installed to illuminate the animated figures on his roof sit pointed at nothing. There is no hay spread on the grass to prevent damage to the yard. When night comes, the street is quiet. 7611 Falmouth Street is mostly dark.
For the first time in 47 years, Babick has not put out his Christmas display.
“I’ve cried,” he said. “I’ve cried quite a bit. But I’m done crying now.”
In fact, after an emotional month following the passage of a new city ordinance that would require Babick to get a Neighborhood Special Event Permit, Babick finds himself unexpectedly busy. When news got out that he wouldn’t be putting up the display on Falmouth Street, calls came in seeking his Christmas decoration expertise.
Without the responsibility of decorating his own house, he had become a free agent of festivity.
“I’ve gotten calls from New York, New Jersey, all around town here,” he said Wednesday, breathing a bit heavily during a break from prepping some Christmas figures with his grandson. “I’m digging into a warehouse space I’ve got filled with things I haven’t brought out in years.”
His first project is the lobby of the Holiday Inn on Main Street east of the Plaza, where he’s already set up several animatronic elves, snowmen and Nutcracker soliders.
“It’s not much yet,” he said. “But it’ll get there. We’ve got more work to do.”
He seemed genuinely excited about the work and outside interest in his talent. And yet he still hints that there’s a chance — remote as it may seem — that he could get the display up and running on Falmouth Street before the season is over.
After the ordinance was passed, Babick seemed set against the idea of putting in an application. But at some point in the past weeks, he changed his mind.
“I kept thinking that there was no way I would be able to afford the permit,” he said. “But I didn’t know for sure. So I said, ‘Let’s just see what it’s going to be.’”
Babick applied for a permit Nov. 21, and received a letter back from the Prairie Village Police Department Nov. 26. It quoted him a permit cost of $1,817.19 to pay for parking signage and an off-duty police officer to enforce traffic rules on the weekends. It’s more than he can afford by himself.
For the Prairie Village City Council’s part, Councilor Mike Kelly, who helped craft the ordinance with Councilor Andrew Wang, said the ordinance was designed with the safety of city residents in mind.
“I believe the ordinance is working the way we intended it to work,” Kelly wrote us yesterday. “As of now only one person has been issued a permit [Ed. note: This permit was issued for the Candy Cane Lane display]. However, that process was fair, quick and served its purpose of looking out for the general safety of the neighborhood and for those who will be attending the event.”
Babick has said he feels the ordinance was designed to single him out. And yet he still won’t eliminate the possibility that something might change, that some agreement might still be in the offing that could bring the display to life on Falmouth Street before Christmas comes.
“I feel like I’ve let down the kids. I’ve let down the families,” Babick said Tuesday. “I’m having talks with people. I can’t say much about it. But let’s just see what’s going to be.”