Bureaucrats in Wolverhampton, England refused to let SpongeBob Squarepants go on stage for the city’s Christmas lights turn-on ceremony because it was felt that his costume was to large for him to climb five steps to the platform.
Health and safety concerns also stopped him from being lifted onto the back of a float due to the crowd of 2,000 — including many families with young children — that showed up to see the cartoon character. That means SpongeBob couldn’t be carried around town.
Many young fans couldn’t see him Friday night because the children’s character could only be on ground level.
However, the yellow guy was allowed to meet and greet fans in Beatties and Market Square. Health and safety rules meant that he could spend just two 40-minute sessions with fans.
Bringing SpongeBob to the big event cost £1,845 ($3,000 U.S.).
John Williamson, 45, of Wolverhampton said that his nine-year-old daughter Lola was left in tears after she couldn’t see her idol.
“It’s ridiculous to ban a children’s character from a Christmas lights switch on,” he fumed. “You would hope the council wouldn’t be such health and safety scrooges and let the kids have a good look at their character.
“Lola had been talking about seeing Spongebob Squarepants for days, but was inconsolable when she couldn’t even get a glimpse of him.”
SpongeBob had been expected to turn the lights on alongside Coronation Street star Sherrie Hewson, but the soap opera star had to press the button by herself.
Wolverhampton City Council leaders called last week’s event a success.
“The Christmas lights switch-on was a great success, with huge crowds turning up to Market Square to enjoy the free event,” said Mark Blackstock, the council’s outdoor events manager. “Unfortunately, the character actor playing SpongeBob Squarepants was unable to climb the stairs on to the stage because of his costume.
“Health and safety considerations meant we were unable to lift him on to the stage using the tailgate of one of our vehicles because of the high numbers of people around the stage.
“This meant that SpongeBob Squarepants was unable to appear on stage during the event. But he did spend an hour and 20 minutes meeting fans both in Market Square and Beatties House of Fraser.
“As the actor could only be permitted to stay in his suit for 40 minutes at a time, again for health and safety reasons, we arranged the two 40-minute meet and greet sessions to enable the public to see him close up.
“During this time, he met as many young fans as possible at both locations, though we of course apologise to anyone who couldn’t see him on stage and was unable to meet him in person.”
Ten-year-old Jessica Drew, a pupil of Woodfield Junior School in Penn, joined her Girl Guide group to watch the lighting ceremony.
“The fireworks were really good and we enjoyed it, but we were disappointed that we didn’t see SpongeBob. We just thought that he hadn’t turned up because we never saw him once. There was no sign of him on stage at all,” she remarked.
Just two years ago, another costumed cartoon character let fans down at the city’s Christmas lights bash. Peppa Pig had to cut down on her meet-and-greets over concerns that she would overheat in her suit. The woman in the suit cut short the visit herself, saying that she had gone over her time limit in the costume.
Beatties staff offered to wear the suit themselves to prevent children and parents from being disappointed children and parents. However, they were told that they couldn’t take on Peppa’s role. At the time, Beatties said the meet-and-greet had lasted longer than expected in spite of health and safety rules.