EXCLUSIVE: Why Stewart family Christmas lights go dark

KNWA

"I just don’t understand as to why I would have to jump through all these hoops other than the Washington County Planning Commission saying that I have to."

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — A shocking announcement this week cancels one of the areas most popular Christmas light displays.

The Stewart Family Christmas Light Display has been a popular Christmas display in Washington County since 2003.

We started with three inflatables and 3,000 lights and it grew to over 500 inflatables and over 1.5 million lights.

Carlin Stewart, Creator

After 16 years of lighting up the city of Fayetteville, according to the display’s creator, Carlin Stewart, this year the lights are going dark.

“It’s disheartening,” Stewart said. “I see so many kids that come up and so many families that go and get so much enjoyment out of it and I’m really sad about it.”

Stewart said the reason why the lights are going off is because of the continued expense and continued changes.

“I planned on moving the lights to a bigger venue in Elkins on 53 acres but I got harassed by the Washington County Planning Commission,” Stewart said. “This has been going on for over two years.”

According to Washington County Judge Joseph Wood, what has worked in the past for the display isn’t sufficient for now.

“We got (an increase) in the number of people and they have to do something different,” Judge Wood said.  “We need to have (stuff) taken care of so we can get the public in and out of there safely.”

Judge Wood said he has been trying to visit with Stewart to see what kind of layout the land will be and to figure out a way to fix traffic issues.

“We want people to get out there, we want the neighborhood to (be able to) get in and out of their homes,” he said. “We also want to make sure the people who are attending are safe.”

According to Judge Wood, there has been a mix of complaints from neighbors who have difficulty getting in and out of their houses during the display due to high traffic volumes.

“Whatever we can do to help accommodate, that’s what we want to do,” he said.

It was hectic on Friday and Saturday nights a lot of times but we had adequate staff there to park everybody and everything was as organized as it could be.

Carlin Stewart, Creator

Stewart said safety is also his number one concern and every year he has made accommodations to ensure everyone who attends the light display is safe and happy.

“I remember back when people were parking on the road and it was complete chaos so I go and get some access to some land for everybody to park on,” he said. “Well that there wasn’t good enough and then I’m told I have to go put in a road so people can get in and out easier so I go and spend a lot of money on everything.”

Stewart said he doesn’t understand why it has to be this way and so now the family is looking for a solution.

“I have everything stored for the most part and you know I am looking for a new home for the lights and maybe one day the Stewart Family Christmas Lights will be able to go on again,” he said.

At the end of July, Stewart said they would start putting the lights up and work until the Saturday before Thanksgiving and with all the continued hoops he has to jump through there was no other choice.

“It was a very hard decision to make on my end but you know I prayed about it a lot and I just think that this is the best thing to do right now,” he said.

Stewart said as of now he is not willing to put in the time and effort especially not knowing what hoops the county will throw at him next.

Thank you Northwest Arkansas for all your support and I hate that it has to come to an end but maybe we can start it again if it’s not here maybe it’ll be somewhere else.

Carlin Stewart, Creator

Attached below are documents over the last 2 years between Washington County and Stewart.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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