Christmas celebration loses funding, yet it goes on
Updated: Tuesday, November 5 2013, 11:04 AM EST
Spencerport, N.Y.— A popular holiday tradition will go on in Spencerport despite losing its main source of funding.
For the past 17 years, the residents of Ogden and Spencerport have enjoyed the annual Christmas on the Canal event.
According to the event’s founder, Elaine Spaziano, thousands of people attend the Christmas celebration each year.
However this year, Spaziano and her committee found out that they would no longer have funding for this annual tradition.
According to Spaziano, the entire event costs about $2,400 to host and typically, the town of Ogden and village of Spencerport would each pay for half of the budget.
But this year, some concerns were raised.
“We lost the funding because the event has religious tones and because of all the issues of separation of church and state,” Spaziano explained. “It's a huge worry that there will be lawsuits coming against your church and towns.”
Spaziano says the mayor of Spencerport specifically cited the example of the Supreme Court case involving prayers at Greece Town Board meetings as the reason for her concerns. Spaziano understands and says there is no ill will.
“We understand the government's concern and we really do,” she said. “We have a great government in Spencerport too. It wasn't a personal thing. It was just a concern for the well-being for the whole community. If we were to have a lawsuit we would be using tax payer money and they were cautious about that too.”
While she and her committee understood the reasoning, they were disappointed. They were told they could keep the funding if certain religious components were changed—but they were not willing to make those changes.
“It was no option for us,” Spaziano explained “[The committee] decided together. It was unanimous. ‘No’. To change the name to take out the word ‘Christmas’ and take out the nativity scene and take out the very brief general blessing to the community-- we couldn't do it. It would just change what Christmas on the Canal is and it's a Christmas event.”
Because of the funding issue, the event was briefly cancelled. When Spaziano published a “farewell” letter in the local paper announcing the cancellation of the event, people in the community responded with words of support, donations and offers to help fundraise.
“It was like ‘A Wonderful Life’. George Bailey was ready to jump the bridge and the community came to the rescue like the angel, Clarence.”
This gave the Christmas on the Canal organizers the confidence they needed to decide to go on with the event. The entire event will be funded by private donations.
The event is scheduled for Sunday, December 8. For more information, click here.