BOCA RATON, Fla. - Robotic monsters, a holiday music-and-light show and the fountains dyed to look like blood. All that in Rick Newman's front yard isn't a problem for city code-enforcement officials.
But the kids who volunteered to dance Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in his driveway apparently crossed a line.
Newman has been attracting hundreds of visitors with a high-tech Halloween display for the past four years, but on Monday the city delivered a letter saying that the dancers and emailed flyers make the show a commercial activity, and that's forbidden in a residential neighborhood.
"Fundamentally, what he's doing is not customarily associated with residential use," Deputy City Manager George Brown said. "Performing live dance shows on the property and inviting people into the neighborhood via advertising qualify it as commercial activity."
Newman faces a fine of up to $1,000 if he goes ahead with the show, and he could face a fine of up to $5,000 for each repeat violation, Brown said.
Newman said the city has known about his plans for months, but notified him of the problem after the nightly light show began Saturday. The dancers are scheduled to perform during the last two weekends of the month.
Brown said the city would allow the dancers and lights in Sanborn Square downtown, but Newman said it's too late to reprogram and move all the equipment.
Newman spends months, and several thousand dollars, each year to wire up his front yard with synchronized lights, music and anamatronics to inspire kids to learn about robotics and to collect money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he said.
"This isn't commercial. A yard sale would be more commercial than this," he said. "I don't make a penny off of it. In fact, it costs me a lot every year. All the money we get goes to sick and dying kids."
Dancers from Jewel's Dance Studio and the Lake Worth Playhouse volunteered to perform during the last two weekends of the month to help draw in more donations for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
About 30 dancers, ages 7 to 18, have spent more than 20 hours of their free time during the past six months to perfect the routine, said Julie Coursey, who owns Jewel's Dance Studio.
"They'll be devastated if they can't perform, because of all the work they've put in," she said. "We've been trying to do a lot more out in the community, because it teaches them about how important it is to give back."
Neighbors also volunteer to direct traffic and keep kids safe during the peak traffic on weekends, Newman said.
"I haven't heard any complaints about this before from anybody in the neighborhood," said John Kukla, who allows spectators to park in his yard to watch the show. "Halloween is a big deal here. It benefits the neighborhood, and it involves the community."
Newman hopes the show will go on. He's asked the city to reconsider, and he hopes others will do the same.
"It's just ridiculous," Newman said. "I think people will come out of the woodwork to see the show, and I hope they give to Make-A-Wish."
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