The Fight Over Frosty
by Waitsel Smith
Lenoir's battle over Frosty the Snowman is nothing more than small town thinking raising its ugly head.
Last Christmas, 2012, when I was visiting my mom in Lenoir, NC, I learned of a controversy that had arisen over a 35' tall inflatable snowman named Frosty. The snowman was owned by Larry Smith and his family of fraser fir tree growers. They owned the property where they sold their trees and they owned the snowman. Yet, after the Smith family had displayed Frosty on the same property at Christmas time for the past twenty years, the city has suddenly decided to impose a fine on them, stating that no advertising signage could exceed 32 square feet. That's 4' x 8'.
Larry Smith and his family grow what I believe are some of the prettiest fraser firs in the Southeast. My photo does not do them justice. They are property owners in Lenoir, they bring needed tax revenue to the town, and they add something to the Christmas season without which Christmas just wouldn't be the same. In other words, they are good citizens. Yet, the city decided not to leave them alone to enjoy "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," but to harrass them and to penalize them for running their business the way they saw fit, even though what they were doing was not hurting anyone.
Here is what I would call a very milk-toast coverage of the controversy by WBTV (CBS) in Charlotte, NC:
Click here to watch the YouTube video. WBTV entitles the segment, "Giant Snowman Gets Frosty Reception from City." Can you imagine this story attracting the attention of the region's largest television station? Can you imagine their not interviewing a single city official in their story?
That is part of the strangeness of this story: the city seems relatively silent while the citizens are all abuzz. Well, on October 1 at 6 PM the city will speak at a bimonthly City Council Meeting in which they will address the Frosty issue (pun intended). The Lenoir News Topic, in a news story headline, has predicted the results of the meeting: "New rules would rule out 'Frosty' inflatable snowman." Thank you, News Topic.
I hope the citizens will prove the editor wrong. There is too much cynicism in Lenoir already - too much small thinking, too much trying to control assets that really don't exist.
The editor summed up his views on the issue in an editorial entitled, "We like Frosty too, but rules exist for a reason." Oh, do they? What he basically argues is that if you let the owners of Frosty exercise their constitutional rights, what's to stop other citizens from trying to exercise theirs? If the Board of Adjustment (Adjustment Bureau?) sees fit to pass laws and impose fines, there must be a good reason. That's right, editor: no government has ever done anything that didn't make sense and wasn't for the good of the people.
I answered this editor's editorial. Here's what I wrote:
"I have to disagree. Often rules are made and used to keep people in their place. I see no purpose behind the Frosty controversy, other than small town thinking raising its ugly head.
"First of all, do you realize how small 32 square feet is? That's 4' x 8'. That's a small sign, and a very tiny inflatable. If that law is supposed to govern advertising, then every transfer truck that comes through Lenoir is in violation, because every one of them has some kind of advertising on their side. Half the signs in Lenoir fall outside those limits.
"Second, why would an inflatable, or any three-dimensional object, be included in that law? That would make ten-foot Christmas trees and pretty much any display, including nativity scenes, in violation. That would make the cross at Easter on Hibriten Mountain, and the star at Christmas, in violation. That would make any cross on any steeple in Lenoir in violation. Are those not advertisements and holiday decorations?
"Third, why are holiday decorations being singled out? There are other 'attractions' in Lenoir that are equally in violation. Is not the new 'wheel sculpture' in downtown Lenoir designed to attract visitors and customers to businesses down there? Is that not advertising? If you're going to outlaw Christmas trees and nativity scenes, should sculptures not be included as well? Should the inflatables at the Blackberry Festival not be included? They're selling something.
"I cannot help but think that there is something else underlying this controversy, other than an attempt to control signage in Lenoir. It seems to me that this is an attempt to control thought. Why target Christmas tree growers? Why target Christmas? That Frosty inflatable isn't hurting anyone, and most people like it. So why make such a fuss over it? Is this really all our elected officials have to do?
"It seems to me that this is a test, a test to see if the citizens of Lenoir will knuckle under, if they can be made to accept an arbitrary law that really has no basis in common sense or good government. This isn't about the beautification of Lenoir, it's about control.
"I hope the citizens of Lenoir will turn out on Tuesday, October 1 to make their voices heard. Tell the City Council to stop spending time and money, which they do not have, on issues that do not affect the well-being of the city, and instead serve to antagonize small business owners, who supply most of the tax revenue and most of the jobs, including theirs. That is not the purpose of government. The purpose of government is to help create an environment of entrepreneurship and fairness, which, at least on this issue, this government does not seem to be doing.
"Thank you, Waitsel Smith"
Will my letter do any good? Will this article? Who knows. But if we don't at least try to right the wrongs with which we're surrounded, our communities and country will continue to sink into the social mire that is threatening to destroy us. Frosty may seem like a small, unimportant issue to you. But small issues add up. Today they may be tearing down Frosty; tomorrow it may be the cross on your church.
To see the results of this fight, go to http://www.waitsel.com/america/Frosty_Beats_City_Hall.html
Waitsel Smith, September 26, 2013
COMMENTS FROM READERS LIKE YOU:
[Send me yours and I'll include them on this page. Let me know what you think.]
"BRAVO Waitsel!! I loved your well written and thoughtful response!" - Kathy, Atlanta
"If one big frosty is outlawed I will work with you to install many little Frostys around Lenoir. To think city government has time to worry about nothing is amazing. Grandfather Frosty into the city and have it as an attraction and give consumers a reason to come not stay away!" - Rocky, Atlanta
"You speaking of the editor -I think this should be a letter to the editor. If it was, I missed it. This is one of the stupid things that has happened around here. Frosty is part of Christmas for sure. It's not like he is there all year!!! I hope he will be there again. They have done nothing on that corner which they were going to beautify!! Thanks for thoughts - I agree with for sure." - Phyllis, North Carolina
"Many good points well stated. I just hope you don't give them any ideas about who to target next. I hope the citizens turn out and make this city council back down. I too am from a small town and have seen much of the same kind of thinking that throws cold water on things that are good for the local economy. I think much of it is aimed at a business competitor. 'This town's not big enough for the two of us!'" - Patrick, Alabama
"Excellent chap! My sentiment exactly! The city of M'ton has given us fits over our signage, too! Crazy!!! Good luck with this battle." - Dawn, North Carolina
"Waitsel - I like your thoughts and I passed them on to the lady that is the EDITOR of the News Topic - Plus, some city councilmen - (COPY OF MY NOTE TO YOU). Good Luck & hope you can make some of the meeting." - Clint, North Carolina
"Its not the size of the sign, it's the message behind it. Its not the size of the man, it's the size of his heart. Town council should read the book on Humility by Andrew Murray, mandatory to sit on city council. wwjd. - Rod, Atlanta
Thanks for all your great comments!
Text © 2013 Waitsel Smith. All Rights Reserved.