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Published: Wednesday, 10/16/2002

County seeks sponsors for Wonderland

The budget crunch led the Lucas County commissioners to cancel Children's Wonderland for this season, but yesterday, they proposed putting some of the displays in downtown Toledo storefronts.

The county is teaming up with Downtown Toledo, Inc., to find sponsors who are willing to let their storefronts be used for the displays.

“We felt it was important enough that parents and children around the county would want to see these wonderful displays,” said Sandy Isenberg, president of the commissioners.

She said the idea is to find a place to showcase the displays while avoiding the $100,000 loss the county incurs from staging the show at the Lucas County Recreation Center.

Children's Wonderland, which opened in 1963, has drawn about 65,000 people annually for the last three years, said Jim Shaw, director of the county public service department. He said most of the county's expense is in personnel costs.

Ms. Isenberg said the holiday displays were eliminated with reluctance, but diminishing revenues made some trims necessary. The county's general fund budget is $134.3 million this year, an increase of just 1.8 percent from 2001.

Commissioner Harry Barlos said rather than letting the Wonderland displays collect dust, he and his colleagues thought it would be better to find a forum for family entertainment and bring people downtown at the same time. “My wife and I plan to drive by all the window displays before we go the zoo to see those wonderful lights,” he said.

Pete Gozza, president of Downtown Toledo, Inc., said it's hoped that the Wonderland displays mark the beginning of a tradition that will prompt people to make trips to downtown during the holiday season.

“Every year, it will get better and better,” he predicted.

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