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Published: Tuesday, 11/24/2009

Commissioner offers plan to rescue holiday tradition

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Lucas County is unable to pay for Children's Wonderland this Christmas season, but County Commissioner Ben Konop hopes to salvage the holiday exhibit with the help of volunteers.

At the Board of Commissioners meeting this morning, he said he will ask his colleagues to approve an agreement - for $1 - with Andrew Zepeda of 92.5 KISS-FM to manage the exhibit this year.

At a news conference with Mr. Zepeda Monday , Mr. Konop announced that a benefactor has offered to donate space in a well-located building for the displays, which for 45 years have been staged at the Lucas County Recreation Center.

He declined to release the name of the property owner or the proposed location for the exhibit before he knew his plan was doable.

Mr. Zepeda said that assuming the commissioners approve the agreement with him, the success of the proposal will hinge on the response of the public to his call for volunteers.

"If we don't get enough people, then we just won't do it," he explained. Prospective volunteers can e-mail him at savechristmasintoledo@gmail.com or call his radio show this morning at 419-240-1547.

"We need to transport stuff from the rec center [where the displays are stored] to the new site. We're going to need trucks," he said.

Normally, six or seven county employees set up the displays. Mr. Konop said one supervisory employee will be available to make sure the exhibit is put together properly. If electricians were needed, he would ask the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for assistance.

Mr. Zepeda estimated the exhibit would cost about $25,000 to mount. He and Mr. Konop hoped revenue from admissions would more than cover this. Any surplus would be donated to Toledo Seagate Food Bank. They also want to offer discounted admission for exhibit-goers who bring a donation for the food bank.

Children's Wonderland normally runs from the day after Thanksgiving to New Year's Eve.

The financially struggling county zeroed out funding for the exhibit halls at the rec center a year ago as part of a 5.6 percent reduction in the 2009 budget intended to save $8.4 million.

The exhibit halls, which require $1 million in repairs, were host to many activities such as hobby and craft shows in addition to Children's Wonderland.

Contact Carl Ryan at:

carlryan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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