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By Jim Miller, Dana Point
The creation of the IlluminOcean holiday Harbor light show, put on by the four major hotels of Dana Point using the funding from Tourism Business Improvement District, was a home run. I was very proud of our TBID, our hotels and our city for stepping up and creating an event that in years to come would have made Dana Point the most popular destination for hotel guests and visitors our city has ever been.
Last year IlluminOcean saw over 250,000 visitors attend the 40 nights of lights with many returning two or three times bringing aunts and uncles, grandparents in wheelchairs, little children, family and friends. All year long I have heard from my customers about how great the event was and how they were planning on having family come from out of town to see it this year.
I was told and have read in the City Council meeting agenda and reports from Sept. 4, 2014, that “the event will attract visitors from across the region and become an annual holiday attraction for years to come.” I was told, as were many others that it was to be an annual event and the hotels were committed, knowing it would take a few years to put what they call “heads in beds.” In fact in the budget that was approved by City Council on Oct. 21, 2014 for the 2015 budget, the light show was referred to as, “the IlluminOcean light display event to bring overnight visitors in the non-peak season.” And the budget reflected this in a line item that reads: Event Production and support $800,000.
Why did the four hotels cancel IlluminOcean? It wasn’t for lack of funds. It wasn’t for lack of attendance. Even if it was canceled for the reasons they would have the public believe, the decision was still a mistake.
Fact: Do you know that the city of Laguna Beach has been looking at sponsoring its own holiday light show? That would be a slap in our face, after canceling our Christmas light show, to let Laguna steal the TBID’s concept. I would prefer visitors come to our city.
If IlluminOcean is really canceled, then the TBID has $800,000 budgeted for this fiscal year. What are they going to do with all that money during the remainder of fiscal year 2015?
I have been told the displays delivered did not meet the expectations of the TBID. I have been told that all the work/displays from last year are unusable. My question is this: Are those displays under warranty? This question needs to be answered. If they are under warranty they should be repaired. I believe the OC Harbor Department would be prepared to assist to make any version of IlluminOcean happen this coming holiday season. Let’s keep IlluminOcean alive as something special for our city.
We are going to have thousands of people coming to Dana Point this holiday season; let’s not disappoint them. The city must step up and not let IlluminOcean fade into darkness. Make it happen and make sure no other coastal city steals what is Dana Point’s own IlluminOcean.