Bittersweet moment as Villagers donate money at end of 10-year run of holiday lights display

It was a bittersweet moment Tuesday afternoon when the Village of Hadley neighbors of Dunkirk Trail presented their check for $34,042 to the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office.

The money, plus more than $10,000 in food donations, comes from the neighborhood’s annual lights display. After 10 years the group has decided that 2018 was the last year they would be doing the lights display on Dunkirk Trail.

Front row, from left, Pegeen Thornton, Lt. Robert Siemer, Bonnie Weaver, Ginni Vatter, Pat and Peter Martin, Deputy Glenn Ware, Deputy Adam Glazer and Deputy Ted Lefed. Second row, from left: Deputy Richard Boyher, Sgt. John Farfaglia, Bill Thornton, Hans Mantel, Becky and Steve Mantonya.

“It has just gotten too big to produce in our neighborhood,” said Hans Mantel, the chief engineer and choreographer of the display of more than 400,000 lights. “We don’t have the space for parking and logistically it was becoming dangerous with people trying to walk in and around the golf carts and cars that were driving through the display.”

The money and food were donated to the Sumter County sheriff’s fund that operates programs to help the needy during the holidays, Kids, Cops & Christmas.

Sumter County Outreach Coordinator Theresa Cooper said that in addition to being so appreciative of the donation and all the good she can do with the money, on a personal note she will miss the display. “I take my granddaughter every year to see the lights,” said Cooper.

The lights, meticulously designed by Mantel with each participating neighbor’s input, opened the Friday after Thanksgiving and ran every night through the end of the year. Money has been raised by donations from those coming to enjoy the lights.

“Sheriff Farmer really appreciates all the hard work that goes into the Dunkirk Trail lights, which ultimately benefits the children in Sumter County,” said Lt. Robert Siemer who added his own appreciation, saying that even though the display will not be up in 2019, the money donated will kick off the 2019 projects for the holiday season, so in that way the neighbors of Dunkirk Trail will be part of giving to the children next year.

Family fun is what the neighbors were after when they started this project a decade ago.

“We wanted it to be a fun, lively show,” said Mantel.  “We always put some humor in the displays.”

Mantel is hoping the project is not gone for good.

“I would love to see it continue in a place that can handle the logistics,” he said.

He says he could see it working in one of the squares and already has some design ideas of lifting it up to appear on the second story so that it could become a display meant for people to walk through. “That would take a place that could handle the parking, so one of the squares definitely came to mind,” said Mantel. He said he hopes to see it live in another venue and would be happy to apply his gained knowledge to setting it up in a new location.