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On With The Show Coeur D’Alene Resort Buys Winter Lights From Spokane Foundation

The Winter Lights won’t be spending Christmas in the attic after all.

Coeur d’Alene businessman Duane Hagadone has purchased the ill-fated twinkle show for an undisclosed price and is moving the display to Idaho, officials said Monday.

Hagadone Hospitality employees declined to say what they plan to do with the lights.

“We’re going to have a huge announcement in about a week’s time,” said Bill Reagan, general manager of the Hagadone-owned Coeur d’Alene Resort, where the lights are being stored. “All I can say now is that it’s going to be more of a program than what was put on over there in Spokane.”

For the past three years, Spokane city parks workers have run the display at the Creek at Qualchan golf course.

Residents paid $5 per carload to drive through 2.4 miles of multi-colored displays, including lights in the shape of leaping reindeer and a ski-jumping Santa Claus.

Proceeds from the show, when there were any, went to the Spokane Parks and Recreation Foundation, a nonprofit agency that owned the lights and leased them to the city.

Foundation president Gerry Bulger said his group decided to sell the Winter Lights after a dismal 1996 season that saw attendance drop substantially.

Nearly 24,000 cars drove through the display during its first year. Last year, only about 7,000 vehicles made the trip. “We weren’t making any money. It’s just that simple,” Bulger said.

The private foundation provides recreation programs in the Spokane area, including swimming lessons for needy kids and ski equipment for people with disabilities. This year, the group spent thousands to replace trees destroyed during last November’s ice storm, Bulger said.

“Those are far more important than whether we have Christmas lights at Qualchan or not,” Bulger said.

An uprising among people who live near the golf course contributed to the decision to scrap the show. Some neighbors fed up with traffic snaking through their streets during the Christmas season threatened to sue.

“We had some problems with the neighbors out there who didn’t want the lights in their neighborhood,” said Ange Taylor, Spokane parks director.

In addition, fewer city parks workers were willing to volunteer their time to put on the show, Taylor said.

A few city-owned displays that were part of the Qualchan show will go up in Riverfront Park this Christmas. The rest will be burning 30 miles to the east.

“We really worked our buns off to keep it here,” Taylor said. “But, honestly, the public didn’t really come out and say they wanted to keep it.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo