Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Mall pulls plug on blue roof Christmas display

Associated Press Writer

Frank Evans thought the tiny blue-tarped roofs, little toppled fences and miniature piles of hurricane debris he included in the Christmas display he builds every year for a suburban New Orleans shopping mall struck just the right humorous tone.

Mall management decided otherwise and told Evans, a landscape architect from nearby Gretna, to dismantle it.

"Although most people did enjoy the decorations, a few customers found the display to be in poor taste," said a statement issued Tuesday night by Lakeside Shopping Center in Metairie.

Evans videotaped the display before dismantling it. The creation had sat since mid-November among a grand, more traditional display of gleaming Christmas trees, colorful gifts wrapped in holiday paper and Santa's elves on carousel horses.

Situated in a large open plaza in the heart of the mall, the display was 60 feet long, circled by a miniature train that children rode after sitting on Santa's lap. Plush stuffed animals sat atop hills with model trains running on tracks and through tunnels - and a rescue helicopter circling above.

Bob and Jill Patin of Gentilly liked the "You Loot, We Shoot" graffiti on one of the ruined refrigerators.

"It's priceless," Jill Patin said. The couple, who are rebuilding their home that had wind and flood damage, came to the mall just to see the display, she said. And they weren't alone.

Kim Koster heard about it and brought her camera. "It's like putting Christmas lights up on your FEMA trailer. It just makes you feel better," said the Uptown New Orleans resident, whose home was inundated.

As children rode by on the motorized train, Ray Smith and his wife, Marcia, chuckled at the "Caution -- Operates Only in Good Weather" sign next to a model of a Jefferson Parish pumping station. It was a wry reference to a decision by Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard to evacuate pump operators before Katrina hit on Aug. 29, inundating the area.

"At times like this, you need a little humor," Ray Smith said.

Evans has long thrown political humor into his displays. "It's fun for the adults," he said.

When former Gov. Edwin Edwards was facing racketeering charges in 2000 (he's now serving a 10-year sentence) Evans' Christmas scene included a model of a federal prison with a sign that read: "Louisiana Politicians' Retirement Home." It also featured sharks walking upright carrying briefcases.

Following the 2000 presidential race, Evans included two model trains representing each candidate. "The Bush train crossed the finish line, and the Gore train was derailed," Evans said.


  1. Sounds like those that were able to enjoy the display have a healthy attitude about their circumstances. They've accepted the reality of now. Unfortunately, you will always have some to complain and that will be catered to.

  2. I agree. The display was meant with the best of intentions, and people should be less sensitve about it.