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Lights out for North Auburn bail house display after theft?

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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It could be lights out this year for one of the Auburn area’s brightest Christmas traditions. And the owner of an Atwood Road bail house that has been wowing viewers for a quarter century says the blame lies with a culprit in the theft of thousands of twinkling lights and a baby Jesus statue. For the past 25 years, Frank Calabretta’s Bail House on Atwood Road across from the Placer County Jail has been the go-to destination for yuletide celebrants looking for the area’s ultimate Christmas lights display. Calabretta has rewarded their trek to North Auburn with an eye-popping display that now numbers more than 400,000 lights. Calabretta said his electricity bill spikes by thousands of dollars each year to pay for the display. This past Christmas, the extra juice cost $18,000, he said. But Calabretta said the recent theft from a shed on the property of 2,000 new, white, twinkling light bulbs and a clay baby Jesus statuette specially made in Mexico has cast a shadow over the display. “It’s the first time anything like this has really happened here,” Calabretta said. “I don’t know why anyone would take them. They’re not worth anything on the street. And a baby Jesus? Can you imagine that?” Calabretta said he’s reevaluating putting up the lighting display again, given the work and the risks. “It’s kind of got me nervous,” Calabretta said. “And in this economy, I’m kind of wondering if people think that it’s too much – that ‘he’s spending money like a drunken sailor.’” Calabretta said that the economic downturn has affected his business. “Business is down because a lot of people are out of work and are opting to sit in jail,” he said. “But we’re paying our bills.” Kathleen Harris, of Auburn’s Harris Industrial Gases, said she’s disgusted with the theft and is hoping the lights and statue will find their way back to Calabretta. “He puts on a show every year at his own expense, which is more every year,” Harris said in an e-mail message. “He hires people to help string new lights then pays PG&E a whopping amount.” Calabretta said he hasn’t reported the theft to law enforcement because the trail is likely too cold. The theft could have occurred any time between May and two weeks ago, when the items were discovered missing, he said. “If I can just get them back,” he said. “I’m not seeking prosecution and I’ll take them back with no questions asked.”