Liberty Station Christmas Event Turns Into a Scrooge-style Nightmare

by on January 27, 2012 · 1 comment

in Culture, Economy, San Diego

“My deer got Scrooged,” said Diana Frieling, owner of California Reindeer Rentals in central California. “I don’t have the heart to tell them.”

by Kelly Bennett / Voice of San Diego / Jan. 26, 2012

Hyped as an epic holiday tradition-to-be, A Christmas Tabernacle in Liberty Station last month turned into a yuletide nightmare. Scores of performing groups and small businesses haven’t been paid for their involvement, ranging from carolers and ballet companies to reindeer owners.

Jamie Sutton was selling Christmas.   The 31-year-old businessman dreamed of fathering an epic tradition in San Diego, the Christmas-only version of popular but religion-neutral events like Balboa Park’s December Nights. Last summer, he made his way around town wooing vendors and performers, painting them into his Rockwellian vision.

For a debut event, he snagged an impressive lineup. He secured the San Diego Ballet to perform the entire two-hour Nutcracker. He had carolers. A mariachi band. A veteran brass quintet agreed to play, a theater troupe would perform, and the San Diego Master Chorale signed on to sing.

The yuletide smorgasbord would spill over offstage, too. Sutton envisioned a winter wonderland complete with a snow hill, live reindeer, actors embodying Nativity characters, a forest of Christmas trees, Santa Claus and horse carriage rides.

Sutton was sick of the inclusive nature of events that celebrate other traditions and holidays. He wanted to put Christ back in the holiday, he said. To provide a space where people could say “Merry Christmas.”

But the groups he hired harbor different words for him now. The event, A Christmas Tabernacle, turned into a holiday nightmare. The four-day event in Liberty Station in December drew a slim portion of the 20,000 to 30,000 ticket buyers Sutton had forecasted. Now the group of professional and side-job artists and small business owners are out thousands of dollars and don’t know what to expect.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

avatar Jack January 30, 2012 at 7:36 am

Last year at Christmas time (yes, not the holidays) I was given a book titled the Advent Conspiracy. It is a short book available online for about six dollars (give or take). The subject matter is something I hear most everyone voice, but none of us act on; stepping away from the commercial aspect of Christmas, and returning to the true meaning, Compassion for others.

I walk my canine wards along the Liberty Station channel on a regular basis and I saw this monstrosity being erected in December. What struck me as the saddest aspect was not the commercialism, but a Christmas celebration surrounded by a chain link fence. The message was simple, “If you have enough money, you can enjoy Christmas.”

While I am sympathetic to the singers and dancers, who must rely on meager stipends to keep their programs running, it does not extend to the vendors. When I read the lamentation of the reindeer rancher my first question is why do you raise reindeer? The answer is simple, to make a buck off of Christmas. And I do so by taking a wild animal and penning it up for the remainder of the year….ahhh the Christmas spirit at its finest.

So to those of you who lost money trying to cash in on Chirstmas…well I think you know how the remainder of the sentence reads.

Peace, Jack

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