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What happened to St. Pete’s Baseball Santa?

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The holiday display in downtown St. Petersburg is coming down as festivities for the New Year begin. But there’s one display that was already missing from years in the past: Baseball Santa.

Residents who flock to downtown to catch a glimpse of the spectacular light display featuring icicles dangling from trees and several large light-up figures may have noticed the Santa shown pitching a ball to an awaiting elf with a bat is no longer there.

According to the city, that’s because residents commented the display was too repetitive from year to year. Explained by Ben Kirby, the mayor’s spokesman, imagine living downtown and seeing the same display for several weeks each year.

For most, he continued, you make the trip to check it out and then leave. They look at it every day.

Mike Vineyard with the city’s Parks and Rec department agreed it was important to keep the display fresh each year.

“We saved money by not having a display on Spa Beach this year,” Vineyard said. “So we actually had a better display in Straub Park.”

He explained that, in years past, displays have been mostly only visible at night when they’re lit up. But this year many of the displays were wrapped in sparkling garland to make them festive all day long.

And Baseball Santa may come back.

The city uses a company called Clark’s Christmas. The city orders various displays from the company that then sets them up according to the city’s specifications. All the various displays are stored in a Central Florida warehouse. Other cities use the service, too.

The city budgets about $50,000 for its annual holiday display and here’s the kicker: Planning for the whole thing starts … now.

Vineyard said it’s almost a bit of a buzzkill on the holidays to have a job that requires planning so early.

So, once this year’s display is down, Vineyard will enjoy the New Year for a brief shining moment before strapping back into Christmas mode to plan next year’s display — with or without Baseball Santa.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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