A patriotic display on the Sherman Green in Fairfield, aimed at spreading positivity amid the coronavirus pandemic, has been taken down ahead of July Fourth weekend.
Saugatuck Sweets owner Al Diguido, the mastermind behind the display, posted about the removal on Facebook saying in part, "It saddens me deeply that due to several complaints regarding the American flags, Tree of Hope lights and signage on the green that the Town of Fairfield has asked us to remove all of the above."
A petition to keep the display, specifically the Tree of Hope, has more than 700 signatures.
However, First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick says there has been a lot of miscommunication regarding the incident. She says the Tree of Hope was never taken down, just the tree lights and American flags. Parks and Recreation director Anthony Calabrese says the Parks and Recreation commission approved the planting of the Tree of Hope in October. It was dedicated by DiGuido for children in need.
"One of the caveats is that he was going to put lights on it, the lights would be lit from November to Jan. 15," Calabrese says.
In March, at the onset of the pandemic, Calabrese says DiGuido asked to keep the lights on, and to also put up American flags.
Because the commission wasn't meeting at the time due to COVID-19 concerns, Calabrese says he and DiGuido had a verbal agreement that the lights and flags would remain through July 1, ahead of events returning to the green.
Calabrese says DiGuido complied with the agreement.
As for the "complaints" DiGuido referenced on Facebook, Calabrese believes they refer to comments made by a representative town meeting member in a series of emails.
"This complaint had nothing to do with where the flags were placed, and had everything to do with the procedure of approving the flags," Calabrese says. "That Saugatuck Sweets was involved in it, that it was too commercialized, that it looked tacky."
But many residents disagree, and believe the lights and flags should stay on the green through at least July Fourth Weekend.
A group of around a dozen people plans to show up to the green Wednesday night, holding up flags in silence.
Kupchick said she, police officers, and firefighters are also placing flags around town today.
Diguido declined to comment on the matter.
News 12 also reached out to the RTM member, but has not yet received a comment.
Calabrese says he plans to discuss returning the lights and flags to the green at the next commission meeting.