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Published: Sunday, 8/10/2003

An early Christmas present

Those who believe in Santa Claus and flying reindeer - and we know who we are - may not be the most powerful constituents a politician faces, but they're arguably the most important. And when many of them complained about the absence of the popular Children's Wonderland display at the Lucas County Recreation Center, county commissioners rediscovered the Christmas spirit. Good for them.

Last year many children and their parents were unhappy with the transfer of the animated display to storefronts in downtown Toledo - a move made to save money.

Children's Wonderland, a 40-year-old holiday tradition in Lucas County, just wasn't the same in its new downtown setting. The move was poorly received by the public, and pressure to restore the mechanically animated exhibits to their rightful home at the recreation center finally won out.

Lucas County Commissioners learned the hard way not to tinker with tradition. “I think everyone realized how important Wonderland was,” said Harry Barlos, president of the commissioners. “After a while, you take it for granted. The one year off brought everyone back into focus.”

Funny how that happens when the community registers clear disappointment with its elected leaders. All of a sudden, the commissioners discovered the cost of the event wasn't quite as prohibitive as they had originally believed.

With a little recalculation and imagination - a $60,000 budget appropriation, higher ticket prices, and more government and labor cooperation to reduce expenses - Wonderland was suddenly back in business.

Depending on labor fees and attendance, the county could actually come out ahead. The attendance part shouldn't be a problem. From 1999 to 2001 Children's Wonderland drew about 65,000 people annually.

That's a lot of constituents, even if many of them can't vote.

After a one-year experiment that failed, the 2003 edition should be better than ever. As any kid could have told the commissioners, sometimes you just gotta believe.



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