FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - The City of Plantation’s police chief and neighbors of a family on trial for their massive Christmas display took the stand, Friday, and provided testimony that may prove crucial to the outcome of the case.
City officials filed a lawsuit against Plantation residents Kathy and Mark Hyatt over their annual holiday display, Hyatt Extreme Christmas, claiming it poses a safety risk and that it should be shut down.
The Hyatts open their home the day after Thanksgiving, turning on more than 200,000 lights for anyone who wants to visit. As many as 2,000 people visit per day.
Now, Broward County Circuit Judge Marina Garcia-Wood will decide its fate.
Taking the stand as the trial entered its fourth day, Plantation Police Chief Howard Harrison expressed his concerns about crowd control. “Parking is a big issue and whether it’s going to be an interactive display,” he said, “which causes people to get out of their car and travel on foot.”
However, neighbor Nina Fornalski said she allowed visitors to park on her two-and-a-half-acre property before the city told her that it wasn’t allowed. Officials then set up a safety zone and closed the street to the Hyatts’ display.
“Once they instigated that ‘safety zone,’ the police would stop traffic,” said Fornalski. “They would walk in the streets. They would walk on the sides, too, but it did put more people in the streets.”
Fornalski claims that before the city got involved, things ran smoothly. “People weren’t putting their families in the road whatsoever,” she said. “They just park there and walk down, and the Hyatts would help them there with their volunteers constantly. There wasn’t even so much as a traffic tie-up. When I would go to the grocery store or anything, it was like totally fine.”
A visibly moved Kathy Hyatt took the stand once again to defend her display. She argued the month-long event was their religious and property right, but it also represented what the spirit of Christmas is all about.
“I understand the children that come to our display and the families that don’t have the opportunity to have presents, and this is what they look forward to,” said Hyatt. “It means everything to me.”
Garcia listened to closing arguments from both sides and said she will make her decision about the display at a later date.
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