Candy Cane Lane, a festive display of El Segundo homes decked out in holiday lights that began in 1949, has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was announced by the city on Tuesday.
For seven decades, thousands of pedestrians have taken the stroll down the 1200 block of E. Acacia Avenue. In 2018, in fact, so many holiday revelers crowded the cul-de-sac that city officials started granting it a special event permit, closing the street to traffic and providing policing.
But that permit will not be granted this year, as the event organizers follow the safety protocols of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Officer Order prohibiting large public events.
The city, in fact, first learned of the cancelation through a social media post from neighborhood organizers, said Martha Guzman-Hurtado, City of El Segundo spokesperson. Candy Cane Lane, she emphasized, has always been a private neighborhood event the city has supported.
Now, Guzman-Hurtado said most residents in El Segundo are aware the event is canceled. But, the city is concerned about getting word out beyond the South Bay to discourage people from driving into the neighborhood.
"The big worry this year with Candy Cane Lane being canceled due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19," said Guzman-Hurtado, "is we're really hoping to get the messaging out regionally, so we can prevent the traffic and the crowds."
Last year's light display, which typically begins mid-December saw nearly 10,000 people come for opening night, said Jennifer Turnbull, co-chair of Candy Cane Lane. Three thousand spectators came each night after that, she added.
"It's not just a neighborhood thing anymore," said Turnbull. "Because of social media, it's gotten large."
Candy Cane Lane — a total of only 26 homes — has always been a pedestrian event. It's unlike the larger Sleepy Hollow light display in nearby Torrance, where spectators drive through the neighborhood. The city of Torrance, in fact, has tweaked its traffic and parking plan to avoid congestion of the past for this year's event.
Turning the Candy Cane Lane event into a drive-through one just isn't possible, said Turnbull. The street ends in a cul-de-sac and with parking on both sides, there's room for only one vehicle at a time to go through.
Turnball added that putting the onus on neighbors to monitor social distancing requirements with markers, say, on the sidewalks, wasn't a responsibility she or her co-chair thought homeowners should take on.
But will the homeowners in El Segundo still string lights to keep up the tradition that started in 1949 with homeowner Ken Bailey putting up a lit Christmas tree at the end of the East Acacia cul-de-sac?
"We will be decorating our homes," said Turnbull, who has led the event for the past 20 years. "But, less is best."
Turnbull said she and co-chair Shelly Brunnenkant will ask neighbors to take a minimal light-stringing approach — no fancy artwork or trains or North Pole outposts. Just string the lights on the house, the way any other home might decorate.
Turnbull said the disappointment on social media about the cancelation has been palatable.
"As much as I'd love to have your family stand in front of my house and enjoy our lights, let's just stay home and embrace our own families this year," Turnbull said.
"We'll make it a little brighter and a little bigger next year," she promised.
—Michael Hixon contributed