DADE CITY — Nothing brings people together like a little controversy.
Organizers have changed the dates of Church Street Christmas, a decades-old Dade City tradition, back to the original dates of Dec. 21 to 23.
The event was briefly rescheduled for Dec. 18 to 20, which caused a stir on the historic avenue.
"It's tradition," Jim Ward told the Times in October. His family has lived on Church Avenue since 1896. "You don't change tradition."
Organizers thought the early dates, which coincided with the weekend before Christmas, would bring more visitors to witness the carolers, twinkling luminarias and hundreds of strands of Christmas lights. They hoped the free event, which typically sees up to 40,000 attendees, would draw an even bigger crowd to boost the bottom line of local merchants.
But in the end, tradition won.
At a meeting Monday evening at First Baptist Church, the event was changed back to the original dates — the three days before Christmas Eve.
"It was a good turnout," said organizer Steve Smith. "The fact is now we have everybody more united and we have more volunteers. That's always a good thing."
Attendance at organizational meetings earlier in the year was low, he said, and some residents hadn't heard about the changed dates.
When told of the new schedule, there were concerns over getting the houses decorated in time. Other residents worried that the new dates would mean family visitors who come for the holidays would miss the event.
"If you moved it up to the weekend before Christmas, your extended families, your mother-in-law and your grandparents who visit were going to miss it," said Church Avenue resident Natalie Brock.
Smith said his concerns over lower attendance on the later dates were overshadowed by the boost in help. He wouldn't give numbers, but Smith said that after Monday's meeting, he has a lot more volunteers.
"We've got everybody involved now," he said. "Sometimes a little controversy isn't a bad thing."
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 435-7312.