Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2010 | 11:56 a.m.
Map of Sunset Park
2601 E Sunset Road, Las Vegas
The lights have gone out on this winter’s Gift of Lights festival.
Chris and Brenda Meehan, the event’s founders and organizers, said Tuesday the annual display of holiday lights, which would have celebrated its 10th anniversary at Sunset Park, has been canceled this year because they couldn’t come to a contract agreement with Clark County for use of the park.
The dispute boils down to the county charging a higher rate for the event’s use of Sunset Park, Chris Meehan said. The county wanted to raise the rent by 60 percent. The Meehans wanted to keep the rate at its 2009 level.
Because the festival is a privately owned enterprise, the Meehans declined to discuss specific figures.
The Meehans said the additional fees would have come from the event’s operating budget, which would have limited its charitable nature. For example, Gift of Lights always opened for free to the public at least one night each winter, Brenda Meehan said.
County spokeswoman Stacey Welling said the county had implemented new rental policies in 2009, as many government agencies struggled through the recession.
Although she also declined to discuss specifics of the negotiations, Welling said the county had tried to come to terms with the Meehans, but the couple had not provided the county with sufficient financial information, so an agreement couldn't be reached. She called the cancellation "disappointing."
“Taxpayers are entitled to receive fair compensation for use of their facilities,” she said.
The festival had become a hotspot for local charities, which added to the disappointment, Brenda Meehan said. The Boy Scouts and church youth groups sold apple cider and hot chocolate to pay for summer programs, and attendees received a discount for bringing in clothes to donate to Goodwill. Other proceeds benefited the Children’s Heart Foundation.
Brenda Meehan expressed hope that the festival could move forward, with much of the legwork already done, if they found another venue. The couple’s company, Meehan and Associates, set up a special hot line — 702-461-1641 — to take suggestions for a new location.
But, because contract negotiations ended only recently, she conceded it’s “probably too late.”
“It’s disappointing,” she said.
The Meehans are actively searching for a new venue to reboot the festival, which displays millions of lights for about two months, in 2011, she added.