It is a day of rejoicing, indeed, a season of merriment in Plantation, Florida as the south east’s most famous Christmas light display goes dark. Hyatt Extreme Christmas has forever shut out the lights thanks to the spectacularly publicly divorce of Mark and Kathy Hyatt.
Hyatt’s Extreme Christmas was a Florida tradition, albeit one of constant controversy and contention.
Once upon a time, this reporter freely confesses, I was taken in by its charms. You could say I live in the neighborhood. Not next door, but close enough to call it a front row seat to what eventually became a bizarre infestation of the worst kind of Christmas hell you could ever imagine.
But that was many years ago when the display was much smaller.
In the years since that time I have watched the horror of it all unfold as Mark Hyatt never seemed to salve his ego enough with all the publicity, media attention and discord his “extreme” light display garnered.
As it got bigger and more “extreme”, the display got a lot of notice. Cars would line up for miles around. Many cars would stop, people would get out and walk to be among the lights. It’s Florida. December is warm, the lights were something to see and there was no ice to slip on.
Hyatt loved the attention. He loved people throwing money at him (to pay the light bill, of course). He loved making announcements, blaring music, holding press conferences, and especially, taking on city hall.
You see, his display became so “extreme” the neighbors got upset. They didn’t like the traffic. They did not care for all the cars parked in front of their homes and in their driveways. They did not like the trash, the noise, or the very late nights of “oohs” and “awws” of the extreme displays. They complained to the city.
The City of Plantation talked to the Hyatts. The Hyatts told them to take a flying leap. So, the City got a little strict. They started sending bills to the Hyatts for the added police needed to direct traffic. They tried citing the Hyatts for code violations.
The Hyatts responded with a call to arms. Instead of trying to talk to their neighbors, the Hyatts demonized them by calling them anti-Christmas. They got snarky with the city and its officials. And they fought city hall in court over the code violations — and won. Emboldened, Mark Hyatt ran for the city council — and won again. Who wouldn’t vote for the Christmas lights guy, right?
Well, just about all of us in his neighborhood.
But those that did not live in Mark Hyatt’s circus had no problem voting for the guy. They just fed his ego, which caused his display to become bigger and more obnoxious than ever. Others in the neighborhood stopped putting up their own lights. They could not see them from the glare of the bright lights coming from the Hyatts.
Others did not even put up their tree. Christmas was ruined for them, unless they traveled somewhere else during the season where Christmas was normal. All they wanted was some peace. They had to go away to get it.
But now that’s all gone. The Hyatt Extreme Christmas display is dead. If there was a Hyatt grave to dance on, the neighbors would be dancing on it. Ding dong, the Hyatts are dead.
But it’s not like that. It’s better. They’re getting divorced.
And in true Hyatt fashion, the divorce is a glaring — dare we say, embarrassing? — Hyatt side show. Mark Hyatt, in the dark of night, left his wife Kathy last January. He didn’t even bother to take down the famous display of Christmas hideousness. She said his exit came after a disagreement over their teenage son’s education, but added that Mark Hyatt has never given her an explanation for leaving after 27 years of marriage. She said she blames it, at least in part, on his newfound power after winning the election in 2016 for the Plantation City Council.
It couldn’t be your lack of help picking up after the crowds at Hyatt Extreme Christmas, could it, Kathy?
All she knows is that after he bailed the mail started bringing strange things to her. Legal paperwork about loans in her name that she never knew about or signed for. The Hyatts are shamefully wealthy, so what was Mark Hyatt up to with all these loans? Was he raiding Walmart in the dark of night for more lights without telling her?
He denied it, of course. That’s the Mark Hyatt way. He denies everything. When the neighbors complained it wasn’t his fault — it was the city’s. When the city complained it wasn’t his fault — what could he do to stop people from coming? Mark Hyatt is a master of public denial. That’s why he ran for city hall.
But he’s nowhere to be found, hiding behind his lawyer brother and pleading the fifth, the days.
We say “see ya later!”. This year we will hold a memorial of sorts in the neighborhood for the Hyatts. A few of us will attempt to get some lights up, one has decided to even erect a humble Nativity. Maybe in the solitude of a warm Florida December evening, with no cars roaming the neighborhood endlessly looking for parking, we will smile as we think of the poor Hyatts with the dead lights and empty stockings.
Nah, we won’t think about them. Not even for a minute. It’s Christmas again in Plantation, Florida. And all is right with the world.
A moody and tragic figure, Mr. Longfellow joins Christmas Weekly after a distinguished career in which he wrote "If it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all". A wry observer of Christmas trends and controversies Longfellow tends to shine a light on the more negative aspects of the modern Christmas. But we know he's a purist at heart and actually waters his fake tree with great hope in his heart.
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