Candy Cane Lane, a festive display of El Segundo homes decked out in holiday lights, has been canceled for the first time since it began in 1949 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the city announced this week.

Thousands of pedestrians have taken the stroll down the 1200 block of East Acacia Avenue each year for more than seven decades. In 2018, in fact, so many holiday revelers crowded the cul-de-sac that city officials started granting it a special event permit, closing the street to traffic and providing policing.

But that permit will not be granted this year. The event’s organizers decided to abide by Los Angeles County’s ban on large public events, intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The city, in fact, first learned of the cancelation through a social media post from neighborhood organizers, said El Segundo spokesperson Martha Guzman-Hurtado. Candy Cane Lane, she said, has always been a private neighborhood event the city has supported.

Now, Guzman-Hurtado said, most residents in El Segundo are aware the event is canceled.

Still, the city is concerned about getting word out beyond the South Bay that the regionally popular holiday gathering spot won’t happen, she said.

“The big worry this year with Candy Cane Lane being canceled due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19,” Guzman-Hurtado said, “is we’re really hoping to get the messaging out regionally, so we can prevent the traffic and the crowds.”

Last year’s light display, which typically begins in mid-December, saw nearly 10,000 people come for opening night, said Jennifer Turnbull, co-chair of Candy Cane Lane. Three thousand spectators came each night after that.

“It’s not just a neighborhood thing anymore,” said Turnbull. “Because of social media, it’s gotten large.”

Candy Cane Lane — a total of only 26 houses — has always been a pedestrian event. It’s unlike the larger Sleepy Hollow light display in nearby Torrance, where spectators drive through the neighborhood. (Torrance has tweaked its traffic and parking plan to further reduce the typical congestion for this year’s event.)

Turning the Candy Cane Lane event into a drive-thru just wasn’t possible, Turnbull said, since the street ends in a cul-de-sac. And with parking on both sides, there’s room for only one vehicle at a time to go through.

Putting the onus on neighbors to monitor social distancing requirements — with markers on the sidewalks, for example — wasn’t a responsibility she or her co-chair thought homeowners should take on, Turnbull said.

But will the homeowners in El Segundo still string lights to keep up the tradition, which began in 1949 when Ken Bailey put up a lit Christmas tree at the end of the East Acacia cul-de-sac?

“We will be decorating our homes,” said Turnbull, who has led the event for the past 20 years. “But less is best.”

Turnbull said she and co-chair Shelly Brunnenkant will ask neighbors to take a minimal light-stringing approach — no fancy artwork or trains or North Pole outposts. Just string the lights on the house, the way any other home might decorate.

The disappointment on social media about the cancelation has been palatable, Turnbull said.

“As much as I’d love to have your family stand in front of my house and enjoy our lights,” she said, “let’s just stay home and embrace our own families this year.”

“We’ll make it a little brighter and a little bigger next year,” she said

Staff writer Michael Hixon contributed to this report.

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