PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. - A Prairie Village tradition is over. Mike Babick's annual holiday display is dark for the first time in 47 years. His historic display would be too costly to keep up under a new city ordinance.
As headlights passed through a Prairie Village street, only porch lights greeted them.
"We were trying to debate which house it was," laughed Richard Shea. He brought his wife and daughter driving down Falmouth to find Babick's house. Surely, they thought, the home sitting in the dark couldn't be it.
As Micah Babick, Mike's grandson, lifted the garage door, he just stared at the contents inside. "I'm about to cry, I really am," he said.
Inside, a winter wonderland of animated, electronically powered figures that obviously never leave. "It would take us more than a year to move all of this," said Micah. "I could flip one switch and turn all of these on."
Instead, 47 years worth of hand-made Christmas decorations stand still and dark.
A new city ordinance would make them too expensive to display, says Micah.
For more than four decades, thousands came from all over the world to see Mike's creations. His lifelong love of animatronics brought Christmas to life.
In a matter of 15 minutes Saturday evening, a dozen cars drove by. Many drivers, like Shea, stopped to wonder what happened.
"This is a shame!" one driver shouted through his open window. "Doing away with Christmas in Prairie Village!"
A few miles away, voices shout a different message.
"Free candy canes!" says a rambunctious group of teenage girls. Candy Cane Lane (aka the 7900 block of Outlook) marches on in its 50th year. This united street of neighbors applied for that new permit according to that new ordinance.
"We were a little nervous about that," said Linda Braly, one of the Candy Cane Lane neighbors. She applied for the permit.
Traffic flows a little easier here at this drive-through attraction. They got their permit free and clear.
But even in this place, Mike Babick's touch can be seen.
"He's helped us get him started a few times," Braly said, pointing to a figure of a little man in a candy shop making candy canes.
From neighbors who know what it is like to uphold decades of tradition, "our hearts are with him," she said.
The Babick family is hoping there is truth in the saying that when one door closes, another one opens.
"Dad's got something special in store for everybody next year," said Mike Babick's daughter, Michelle. "It'll be bigger and better."