Willoughby’s Santa is on the naughty list this year, and it’s because he’s been hanging out on the town’s flagpole. A recent story about the Santa display, located at Wes Point Park, is making state and national headlines after one local resident complained that removing the American flag and displaying the holiday figure is unpatriotic.
The light-up Santa that waves to passersby has been displayed on the flagpole for more than 10 years. The display, they said, is part of a downtown Willoughby holiday lighting tradition and should remain on the flagstaff.
Carol McManemy, a long-time Willoughby resident, looks forward to Willoughby’s Christmas display every year. She thinks the Santa is “wonderful”.
“The lighting ceremony is the most American event ever and I love bringing my grandkids,” McManemy said. “I believe Willoughby is a very patriotic place and we don’t suddenly stop being patriotic for the 18 days Santa borrows the flagpole. I’m pretty sure that 99.99 percent of Willoughby residents have no objection to it.”
Cathi Weber, owner of the Willoughby Ghost Walk and Willoughby resident, agrees.
“[Santa] has been climbing that pole for 10 years with no hassle,” she said. “I find nothing unpatriotic about Santa. He is as American as apple pie – He was created in the US of A.”
Windy weather conditions would also destroy the flag and a frayed, damaged flag is not supposed to be flown, Weber added.
Many think the whole controversy is trivial in nature and there are more important issues at hand.
Susan Steele, incoming president of the Historic Downtown Willoughby Merchants’ Association, expressed frustration about why the issue of the Santa display was brought up after so many years.
“Don’t we have more important things to worry about?” she said. “It’s the holiday season! I don’t think anyone would be disrespectful of the flag— It’s something the city does every year.”
Update: City officials said Santa will remain on the flagpole.