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Published: Wednesday, 2/10/2010

Children's Wonderland equipment is up for sale

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

The Children's Wonderland exhibit is being put up for sale in hopes that a local entity will buy it and maintain the holiday tradition.

The Lucas County commissioners yesterday voted 2-1, with Commissioner Ben Konop casting the "no" vote, to seek proposals from buyers for the nearly 50-year-old collection of mechanical characters, snowmen, Santa Clauses, stuffed animals, and gingerbread houses.

Commissioner Pete Gerken said the county-owned recreation center in Maumee where the equipment is stored is now leased by a private entity.

"It's not in our core mission any more. We want to make sure that a reputable community partner takes it over, someone that has the time for the management and attention that it needs," Mr. Gerken said.

He said the 2009 exhibit, although it was promoted as a volunteer event, ended up using county workers whose time was calculated at $18,399 to set up and tear down the exhibit, as well as $2,284 for fake snow, none of which was budgeted.

The Sylvania Area Joint Recreation District has expressed interest in taking over the annual display in its field house at its Tam O'Shanter complex at 7060 Sylvania Ave.

George France, chairman of the recreation district board, said his members have voted to continue discussions about operating the Children's Wonderland.

"If this comes to reality, we can host this activity for the holidays and keep a project the county started years ago," Mr. France said. He said Tam O'Shanter has, in addition to its two ice rinks, a 36,000-square-foot exhibition hall.

The county closed the Lucas County Recreation Center in 2009 to save money. During the holidays, radio personality Andrew "Z" Zepeda and Mr. Konop spearheaded the effort to put on a slimmed-down Children's Wonderland at the Erie Street Market using volunteers.

Mr. Konop objected to the sale of the equipment, saying it has the potential for the collection to be split up, because the equipment will change ownership.

"It's going down a slippery slope of seeing those items on eBay. It's something that the community owns," Mr. Konop said. "When I look at these displays, I don't know how you put a price on them. The idea of selling the assets and losing control over the assets is something that bothers me."

He said the event can be put on with a mixture of volunteers and county staff. The event benefited Seagate Food Bank, which got a check for $1,982.79, along with six tons of donated food.

Mr. Zepeda said yesterday he would hate to see the collection of animated and lighted holiday displays sold off. He said he wasn't sure the same people who donated space, time, and services would be willing to do it again or on a regular basis, but said he would consider it.

"Honestly, the problem is they just don't want to have the headache. It's 46 years in a row. I think they should hold on to it. There may be other people out there who can help them," Mr. Zepeda said.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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