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Christmas lights in New Jersey attract hundreds of tourists; family facing thousands of fines

OLD BRIDGE, N.J. – A New Jersey family is in the middle of a holiday battle with the authorities for an extravagant Christmas display that attracts hundreds of tourists. Every year in December, for 15 years, the Apruzzis have decorated their home with tens of thousands of dazzling lights.

It's a tradition like no other for Tom Apruzzi. Christmas holidays are its time to shine. "I love Christmas," Apruzzi told Don Dahler, CBS News correspondent.

But this year, love is not shared with some members of his own community, who fought in front of the mayor. Some neighbors argue that the show creates chaos.

"We need to provide security, I do not have a choice," said Old Bridge Mayor Owen Henry.

Henry said the Apruzzis' neighbors had security issues, such as heavy pedestrian traffic, minimal street parking and accessibility for first responders.

"The street has been blocked," said one visitor.

Apruzzi told us that he had spent almost $ 150,000 to install these lights over a decade. But the price to spread the joy skyrockets and the owners risk fines. The lights do not increase the electricity bill. City officials said the Apruzzis had to pay a fine of $ 3,000 each night, he organized a light show for visitors.

"They want me to pay for the police, they also want me to pay the shuttle service from private parking and that bus people who want me to pay … and I do not do it," said Apruzzi. He said that some of his neighbors like it, others do not.

"I think it's fantastic, what it does for the community and everything in. It's great," said neighbor TJ Seals.

The attraction drew national attention in an episode of "The Great Christmas Light Fight", in which families hold their matches to earn money.

The Apruzzis said that there had never been any talk of fame or money. The family collects donations from visitors to raise money for a charity that hosts seriously injured veterans.

"We started receiving donations probably about six years ago, so we probably received over $ 30,000," Apruzzi said.

But if the Apruzzis refuse to pay the fines, the taxpayers – their own neighbors – may have to pay the bill, which could force Old Bridge to turn a blind eye to the show.

"Do you think they're going to be able to lock you up?" Dahler asked Apruzzi.

"If they close me, they will have to talk to my lawyer," he replied. "This is my right to the first amendment."

"Freedom of expression?"

"Freedom of expression and free religion," said Apruzzi.

The Appruzzis plan to pay out of their pocket the first two light shows. A GoFundMe page has been launched to help pay the fines. Although the family is not meeting its $ 75,000 fundraising goal, Appruzzi said the show would continue – its launch is on Saturday.

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