Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sarasota County Slaps Neighborhood Santa With Cease and Desist Order

For over a decade, Mr. and Mrs. Ray Sevigny have played Santa and Mrs. Claus to the delight of the Bunyan Street children, dressing up as the famous Yuletide figures and holding court in their decoration-festooned front yard. Every night, the lights come on and the couple sit in Ray's homemade sleigh and wave to passersby and talk to enthralled children.

Or, they used to.

This year will be the last hurrah for the Sevignys, as they are ending their run on Dec. 23rd. "Just like everything else--too much politics," explained Ray. "I got notices from the county about having no permits, about traffic issues, about code violations, about noise issues. I even got a notice from animal services about keeping reindeer without a permit. They're plywood, for crying out loud! I'm a 75-year old retiree. I can't afford a lawyer and I can't afford the fines they threaten me with, so the hell with it."

In years past, Ray said he would get letters from some area churches complaining that he was missing the true meaning of Christmas, as well as letters from the ACLU threatening legal action because some of his yard decorations were Christian.

Teachers complained that he was perpetuating the myth of Santa Claus instead of true meaning of the holiday--supply-side economics.

Ray's wife reminded him about the time a group of pagan Druids showed up and demanded equal time in his front yard for their winter solstice celebration. "I tried to be open-minded," said Ray, "but I threw them out when they built the bonfire, took off their clothes and were just about to do who-knows-what to that poor goat they had tied up."

"Oh, I've had shouting matches with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, Unitarians, all of 'em. The worst, by far, are those Mennonites and Amish from over on Bahia Vista. They just ride back and forth, back and forth on those damn tricycles, not saying anything. Just watching. Staring. Like they're looking right through you. It gives me and the missus the willies."

Sevigny has had run-ins with Sarasotans of French descent because he should have looked more like Pere Noel, Brits who wanted Father Christmas, Russians wanted Grandfather Frost, Italians wanted Babbo Natale, and Tea Party Conservatives who wanted Glenn Beck.

He's also been the recipient of a nasty campaign by Sarasota's Public Arts Council, who called their Christmas display "tacky, tasteless to the point of being revolting and an affront to art lovers everywhere." Arts maven, Virginia Hoffman, suggested that Sevigny take his "wretched bit of vulgarity and set it up next to that hideous statue of the nurse and sailor, so we could, at least, keep all the crap together."

The two area malls have sent letters in years past threatening legal action over taking business away from their "official" Santas. "Hell, I never even knew there was such as thing as 'official' Santas until some big guys showed up here one December telling me that I had to join the union--the Amalgamated Federation of the Brotherhood of Santas --if I wanted to keep doing this," said Ray.

"Fredd Atkins led a protest march one year because we didn't have anything about Kwanzaa and we don't have any black people in our sleigh. It seats TWO--me and my wife. The tree-huggers were here because they objected to us putting lights on our pine trees; they said it was 'demeaning' to the trees. Other environmentalists complained that we made too big of a carbon footprint, created too much greenhouse gasses and used too much electricity."

"Florida Power & Light, on the other hand, has sent us a nice Christmas card every year since we've been doing this."

Sevigny says he's selling all his yard decorations, lights and even his plywood sleigh to Langdon Wishek, the creepy loner who lives by himself in the spooky old house the end of the street, who vows to keep up the neighborhood tradition.

"Wait'll they get a load of the new Santa......"

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