AMSTERDAM — Dave Falso won’t be turning the lights on at the Kristy Pollak Memorial Light Display this holiday season, or next.
He has placed the property at Forest Avenue and Lyon Street up for sale, lights and fixtures included. But interest has been minimal, and if no one buys it soon, it will go up for auction in September.
Falso said he’s offering it as a working light display, but someone can buy the property for other purposes, as well. If that happens, the 20th edition of the light show in 2018 will have been the last.
In a nutshell, there was too much to do and not enough help doing it.
“It’s bittersweet. Twenty years we’ve done this. The problem is, you can’t get the volunteers you need,” Falso said.
The light display was free to visit but donations were suggested and gratefully accepted. The proceeds were donated to a worthy cause each year, starting with the expenses facing the family of Pollak, a local girl fighting a losing battle with cancer.
Falso said he had a dedicated core of volunteers and co-sponsors who ran the show with him, but he doesn’t want to keep asking them to do more.
“A lot of my primary volunteers are nearly 75 years old,” he said.
Charles Del Toro, the longtime Santa, wants to spend more time with his grandchildren, for example.
Another blow: The owners of the saddle horses that provided rides for young visitors weren’t going to return this year for the same reason — volunteer fatigue.
“We loved doing it, we were successful, but we could have been more successful with a bigger team,” Falso said.
Meanwhile, Dave’s Landscaping, his full-time business, is busy, shorthanded and takes a lot of his time. He’ll turn 66 this year, and wants to retire before he’s 70.
There have been both high and low points recently. A roster of dignitaries was invited to help kick off the 20th anniversary of the event last year, and only U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, showed up.
Only about one in seven of the thousands of people who drove through each year made donations. At one point, thieves raided the donation box, which has gone to the Make A Wish Foundation the last several years, and Falso thought the money was gone for good.
“People we never knew before came in and made up for the loss,” Falso said. “It was really touching.”
The lights went out in 2016 at another long-running Amsterdam holiday light show, Light Up The Sky With the Marching Rams.
Falso hopes a buyer will keep his light show going, even under another name, and perhaps also use the site to host other events that help cover the cost of the lights.
“We’re hoping that some organization, or somebody, will buy it, and keep it alive. It’s a turnkey operation, everything is there.”
He said he’ll help out on site for the first year, if somebody buys it as a light show and needs help, but he won’t turn the lights on himself for a 21st year.
“It’s bittersweet. It’s sad. But it’s time.”