‘Christmas Lee’ reviving Phoenix light display a year after city pulled plug
PHOENIX – The Phoenix man whose longtime, high-voltage annual display of Christmas lights was shut down by the city last year said the show will go on this holiday season.
Lee Sepanek, aka “Christmas Lee,” told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Thursday that his Arcadia neighborhood home near 44th Street and Camelback Road will be lit up again starting on Thanksgiving night.
“I start decorating next week because it takes us over two months to get set up,” he said.
Sepanek said the city shut him down last year not for the Christmas lights, but for his sale of items to help fund the display.
“In order to curb my efforts, they came at me because I was selling hot cocoa, cookies and Christmas trinkets,” he said.
He used the sales to help fund the opulent display, which he’s been putting up for three decades.
This year, Sepanek said he raised enough money through a GoFundMe campaign to pay for the lights. According to the fundraising page, his expenses are around $10,000 a year.
And just in case, he said he obtained a food handler’s license and a home baked goods permit.
Sepanek said the residents on his street, Calle Tuberia, are fine with his show, but some people who lived on an adjacent street complained to the city last year.
“I had a couple of new neighbors move in a year prior and they experienced their first Christmas, and they didn’t like the traffic,” he said.
Sepanek said he wouldn’t be surprised if the city comes after him again this year.
“I just have heard that they’re pretty hard-nosed about the whole thing and they’re not bending,” he said.
Christmas Lee has at least one government backer: Councilman Sal DiCiccio.
DiCiccio tweeted that Phoenix politicians should be “ashamed” of how they treated Sepanek.
The tweet included a letter he sent to the city requesting a written explanation of the policy for cases such as Sepanek’s or a Girl Scout selling cookies on her lawn or a kid with a lemonade stand.
Sepanek said one good thing came of having his display shut down last year.
“I got to see other people’s lights, which I haven’t been able to do for 30 years,” he said.