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Light show’s a no-go in the Boulevard of broken Christmas dreams

Each December for more than 50 years, people have flocked to The Boulevard, in Melbourne’s north-east, to walk or drive past dozens of lit-up houses.

Authorities provide traffic management, public toilets and first aid.

Christmas past: Festive cheer at The Boulevard in Ivanhoe.

Christmas past: Festive cheer at The Boulevard in Ivanhoe.Credit:Wayne Hawkins

The cancellation follows a string of 2020 festive season events being affected by the pandemic. Carols by Candlelight at Sidney Myer Music Bowl will proceed without a live audience, and many suburban and rural Christmas concerts will go online.

However, the City of Melbourne intervened to help save the Myer Melbourne Christmas window.

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A long-time resident of The Boulevard, Jennifer Bell, 71 – whose late father Harry Rizzetti founded the Christmas lights event in the mid-1960s with neighbour George Whitelaw – said while she understood the council was “trying to do the right thing”, she was disappointed.

She and husband Bob recently sold their house and are moving out in February.

“This is our last Christmas here and we were hoping it was going to be a good one, although with corona it was always a bit of a worry,” she said.

“It’s disappointing for everybody. From all over Melbourne, for so many people, part of their Christmas activities is to go past and look at all the homes lit up with the beautiful decorations.”

Mrs Bell said the council had consulted residents, but a letter notifying them of the cancellation “didn’t say anything about not being allowed to put your lights up”.

She said Melburnians who do not live in a specialised Christmas-light streets put up decorations, “so we’re going ahead and doing it”.

Lights at The Boulevard.

Lights at The Boulevard.Credit:Rebecca Hallas

The council statement said: “COVID-19 has affected how we work, live and gather. We have all needed to adapt to various restrictions and altered events, and Boulevard Lights 2020 is no exception.

“We understand that the event is loved by many, however, the safety of our community is our priority.”

Banyule mayor Rick Garotti said he and the other newly elected councillors did not decide on the cancellation. But assessments would have started months ago and council management had “made the right call in terms of what’s a COVID-safe approach”.

Cr Garotti pointed out that crowds would have exceeded the state government ruling on Sunday that only up to 50 people are allowed to gather in public. The Premier may raise that limit in December.

Cr Garotti said The Boulevard’s Christmas lights were “a treasure”. He has been going since he was 10 years old, and last year brought his two-year-old daughter and eight-year-old nephew.

“It’s part of the excitement of Christmas.”

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