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Lights will stay out on North Auburn’s spectacular bail house Christmas display

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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It’s official. The lights will not be going on this year, if ever, at what has been Auburn’s most spectacular Christmas display for more than two decades. The extended Thanksgiving Day weekend has traditionally been the time for Atwood Road bail bond business owner Frank Calabretta to turn on the electricity for tens of thousands of lights in a tribute to Christmas that has wowed visitors as a regional draw. Citing thefts of lights and a baby Jesus stolen from a manger scene stored in a shed, Calabretta had said in September that he was leery of continuing his popular display this season. Calabretta confirmed Friday that the lights will not be going up this weekend for the Christmas season and – despite a Placer County Sheriff’s Office investigation – nothing has been returned. “I’m not going to do it this year,” Calabretta said. “I’m seeing a lot of vandalism so I’m leery of putting the display up again.” Calabretta’s display – which cost $18,000 in energy bills to keep lighted last year – has been a holiday fixture in North Auburn for a quarter century. Calabretta’s intentions of discontinuing it were a blow to many people who had enjoyed the bright lights and sheer enormity of the display. “I’ve heard from a lot of people but most understand,” Calabretta said. “I’ve had a lot of offers from people wanting to donate lights or send money, but it’s not about the money.” Calabretta said that the nativity scene, minus the stolen baby Jesus statue, may be donated to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Auburn. While the light display is not taking place this year, Calabretta said he has kept some strands of bulbs and isn’t ruling out a possible return of the display in the future. “Everybody really enjoyed it and I really enjoyed doing it,” Calabretta said. “It was fun and the kids, especially, really loved it.” Even Santa’s not too happy with the turn of events. Jack Kenny, an Auburn Santa at this time of year, described the theft of Christmas lights as a crime that was hard to fathom. Kenny, his white beard the picture of St. Nick, is appearing most weekends before Christmas at Applegate’s Red Feather Tree Farm. “It’s a shame,” Kenny said. “We’re used to seeing it every year, and every year it got bigger and bigger. To think that someone went in and stole the light bulbs. That’s stupid. And Frank’s such a nice guy.”