Parkville residents were in search of a Grinch after noticing a popular holiday display was missing Thursday. However, they later learned that 'Grinch' came in the form of hard hats and caution-yellow vests.
For roughly thirty years, those who drive along Highway 9 near Horizon Parkway have enjoyed seeing a small group of trees decorated in lights and tinsel.
"We've lived here 28 years and every year I can remember seeing them," said Diane Thaemert.
"And it's something, you look forward to it. We always thought it was elves," added Diana Meyer.
Brian Hill, his fiancée Jennifer Bowlin, and two of their children Clara Murphy and Thomas Murphy. (Courtesy of Brian Hill)
But Wednesday afternoon, Thaemert, who had always wondered if she would ever see someone setting up the display, saw something she had never seen on the roadside attraction before -- not elves, but MoDOT.
"There was a ton of them, up there stripping the trees," said Thaemert.
The Parkville native put the news of MoDOT removing the Christmas display on a private Facebook group. It immediately caught fire with hundreds of comments from disappointed locals, many referring to MoDOT as their "Grinch."
"We're getting phone calls and emails to City Hall with people angry that these have been taken down," said Nan Johnston, mayor of Parkville. "It's incredible they chose this. Of all the things that they don't have the funding to do, they chose their time and attention to spend on destroying someone's holiday cheer."
41 Action News reached out to MoDOT. They said they're not a Grinch, but also had no choice but to take the display down.
"If things are there without permission, a lot of times our maintenance crews will take them down if we receive a complaint on them," said Chris Redline, assistant district engineer with MODOT.
"We definitely aren't the Grinch and we all like the holiday season as much as anybody else, including the maintenance folks who took those decorations down. But the good news is we have a solution that's going to fix this," he said.
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Redline said MoDOT received a complaint about the display. Following the complaint they decided to take it down because there were no permits, and also because they were concerned about the safety hazards of it being so close to a busy highway.
However, after learning more about the long-standing tradition, MoDOT is attempting to work a legal way into allowing the display to go back up as soon as possible.
"We're working with Representative [Nick] Marshall to actually get a permit so they can put these decorations back up," said Redline.
That news is likely music to the ears of Parkville residents, many still upset the display was removed abruptly with no warning.
"I'm sad. It's not The Plaza, but ya know, it was our little thing and everyone knew about it," said Thaemert.
Mayor Johnston said that she also spoke with the 'elves' responsible for the decades-old tradition, and that even if they don't get the permit for 9 Highway, there is already a plan in place to keep the tradition alive by moving the display to English Landing Park.
Josh Helmuth can be reached at email@example.com