Downtown Safety Harbor was jam packed on Friday night, as hundreds of people flocked to John Wilson Park for the city’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
Maybe the huge turnout was due to the weather, which was unseasonably warm for early December.
Perhaps it was the fact that the event has steadily been growing in popularity for the past few years, blossoming from an early December afterthought to a full-blown civic phenomenon.
Quite possibly it had a lot to do with the fact that the tree lighting ceremony is one of those special, small-town-type events that makes adults feel a tinge of nostalgia while kids behave in a manner befitting the most wonderful time of the year.
Whatever the reason, after seeing the size of the crowd that spilled from the park, including a throng of eager children that “mobbed” the Gazebo stage as soon as Santa sat down, there was no denying the attraction of Safety Harbor’s annual holiday ceremony.
“This is the biggest one we’ve ever had, much bigger than last year, and that one was big,” special events supervisor Joe Cooper told Safety Harbor Connect.
“I mean we’ve never had kids rush the stage before. That was a first,” he added.
“I guess we’re gonna have to add more elf security next year!”
The ceremony started a little after 6:00 pm with choral performances by students from Safety Harbor Elementary and Espiritu Santo Catholic schools, and following the “fa la las”, Mayor Andy Steingold addressed the gathering.
“Quite a turnout we have tonight,” he said. “This is pretty awesome.”
“How many of you are in the Christmas spirt?!” the mayor then asked.
When the answer wasn’t up to snuff, he inquired again, eliciting a rousing cheer from the crowd.
After giving a short speech about the event, Mayor Steingold introduced the grand marshal of Safety Harbor’s 2014 holiday parade, 8-year-old author Madison Jayanna, before bringing the other City Commissioners and their families up on stage for the official lighting of the tree.
When the countdown hit “one”, little Madison pressed a button, illuminating the giant tree and signaling the arrival of Santa on a SHFD fire engine, leading to the mad rush to sit on St. Nick’s lap!
UPDATE: Officials for the Safety Harbor Downtown Business Council announced the results of their second annual Decorate a Door contest, and they are happy to report that more than 125 people voted on the 25 participating merchant’s doors, with Antiques To Aardvarks finishing with the most votes and the Sandwich on Main coming in second place.
“Thank you to the 25 merchants who decorated their doors for the contest last Friday at the gazebo Christmas Tree Lighting,” officials for the organization wrote in a press release.
“Over 200+ townspeople attended the event, and many circulated town to view the doors and vote for their favorite. There was a total of 165 ballots collected.”
Also, two voters were awarded prize baskets: Chickie Gould and Carrie Vaneiro.
Click this link to see the winning doors and prize recipients. Congrats to the SHDBC for another successful event!
Here’s a look at some of the scenes from Safety Harbor’s 2014 Christmas tree lighting ceremony: