2011 Halloween Show

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The following appeared on October 10, 2011 in the


Halloween 'Thriller' shows at
Boca Raton home to go on.


(
Richard Newman stands next to the host Mortimer, of his "Halloween Sound, Light and Laser Show", a fully computerized show where everything is choreographed to Halloween music, outside his home in Boca Raton.)


By Michael Mayo

South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted October 10, 2011

   The way Boca Raton has reacted to resident Rick Newman's popular Halloween display, you'd think he's invited Dr. Conrad Murray to show up and give injections of Propofol, not have a bunch of local kids dress up as monsters and zombies and dance to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in his driveway.

   Thankfully, city officials have loosened up and apparently will allow the dance shows to go on later this month.

   "The city seems to be relenting," Newman told me on Monday. "They sent me an e-mail saying to go ahead with my plans."

   Said Boca Raton Mayor Susan Whelchel: "My understanding is the city manager realizes it's too late to cancel the Halloween shows, but any future shows will have to go to a more commercial location."

   So score this a temporary victory for the zombies and common sense. But the battle might soon flare again.

   That's because Newman, a former stage manager who once produced shows and concerts in New York, also sets up a big lawn display for Christmas. This year he wanted to invite young dancers to perform a few routines from "The Nutcracker" on Christmas Eve.

   "The city is telling me, 'You can't do live performances in a residential neighborhood,' " said Newman, who has lived in Boca for 19 years. "I say, 'Oh yeah, what do you call Christmas carolers? Are you going to ban them?' "

   Newman has set up his Halloween display at 699 NW Ninth Ave. for four straight years, with intricate music-and-light shows that attract hundreds of nightly visitors in October. The live dancers are a new wrinkle, with routines scheduled for the last two Fridays and Saturdays of the month. About 30 kids, ages 7 to 18, have been rehearsing for months.

   Newman said he spends $3,000 of his own money on the Halloween display, and he encourages visitors to leave donations for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which helps dying children. He said he raised $2,000 for the charity last October, and $400 so far this year.

   Said Whelchel: "He has a wonderful show and the children love it, but the basic problem is it's become too successful…How do you handle 400 cars every single night in a tight residential neighborhood?"

   Last week, the city tried to halt the dance shows by saying they amounted to improper commercial activity, and threatened fines.

   Newman said yard sales and open houses are more commercial. "This is freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and the donations go to charity," he told me. "I haven't spent one cent on advertising."

   After the Sun Sentinel's Rebekah Monson spotlighted the situation last week, the story went national. Newman said he's been featured on CNN, MSNBC and media outlets in Iowa, Kentucky and Texas.

   "There's been a lot of outrage. I've been hearing a lot of, 'The city is ridiculous' and 'What nonsense,' " Newman said. "The city has defeated its own purpose, because with all this publicity it's only going to get more popular and crowded."

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