Correction: Although I know I got this from a reliable source, the claim that this has something to do with work on Merriweather and the Chrysalis is not, in fact, correct. My sincere apologies. The one year hiatus is connected to construction taking place on the Crescent Property.
The year was 2007. General Growth was new in town. Do you remember? Do you remember the year they took the Poinsettia Tree away?
Oh, boy--I do. It was a mighty Big Deal. If your memory needs refreshing, here's a piece from the Washington Post.
"The Tree was a symbol of how Columbia was different," said Dennis Lane, who grew up in the town, blogs about it and writes a column for the Business Monthly, a local paper. "It's a non-political statement, a thing of beauty. I live in Ellicott City now, and it has a definable center and a long history. Columbia yearns for that. It's a suburb on steroids that holds tight to any tradition it has."
So now, for some very good reasons, the Symphony of Lights needs to take a one-year hiatus. They're going to use this opportunity to update the displays to environmentally-friendly LED lights. While it is disappointing to miss a year, improvements to Merriweather and the building of the Chyrsalis ampitheater are exciting. Also, considering no major improvements have been made to the lights in their 21-year existence, isn't this overdue?
But I'm hearing rumblings. Poinsettia-protest sort of rumblings. Dark muttering about evil commercial developers and corporate greed destroying Christmas. And Columbia. Suggestions that the secret plan is that the Symphony of Lights is never coming back. Complaints that everyone's holidays are now destroyed.
Now I don't think that several hundred disgruntled citizens are going to show up in the dark with battery operated candles to voice their displeasure. I don't think so, but then, they just might. It's hard to say. Almost any change in town brings out the folks who say, "Why wasn't I consulted?"
What does it say about us as a community that the quintessential community holiday celebration is one we enjoy without ever leaving our cars? Protected from the elements, from coming into contact with any strange people or having any new and/or uncomfortable experiences. It's just so Columbia, like eating dinner al fresco with a view of the parking lot. Watch your car while you eat.
My family loves the Symphony of Lights, and we will miss it this year. But we are going to make an effort to find new ways to celebrate the season in Columbia and Howard County. It won't be the same. But that is okay. It might even bring new light and new traditions into our holiday experiences.