Tree lighting kicks off holiday special events season in Safety Harbor tonight

The holiday season in Safety Harbor contains a special charm, thanks to the city's quaint downtown district and a sleighful of fun, traditional events.

The holiday season in Safety Harbor contains a special charm, thanks to the city’s quaint downtown district and a sleighful of fun, traditional events.

The holiday season contains a special charm in Safety Harbor, despite the persistent lack of snow!

From the glowing lampposts in the downtown district and Santa riding through town on his fire engine sleigh, to the tree lighting ceremony at the Gazebo and the annual holiday parade on Main Street, there’s something about December in Safety Harbor that sets it apart.

The annual tree lighting ceremony traditionally kicks off the city’s holiday festivities, and it will again tonight at 6:00 p.m. at John Wilson Park.

The ceremony, which has significantly grown in popularity in the past few years, features caroling by the Safety Harbor Middle School choir, a visit from Santa on a Safety Harbor fire truck, and the ceremonial flipping of the switch by the 2016 holiday parade grand marshals, Laura Kepner and George Weiss.

The 4th annual Holiday Stroll and Decorate a Door contest takes place tonight after the tree lighting ceremony.

The 4th annual Holiday Stroll and Decorate a Door contest is tonight after the tree lighting ceremony.

Following the tree lighting, downtown visitors can participate in one of Safety Harbor’s new holiday traditions, the fourth annual Holiday Stroll and Decorate a Door contest.

After picking up a ballot with a map at the Gazebo, patrons are encouraged to take a stroll through the downtown district and vote for the merchants who have creatively decorated their doors. The event, which is designed to showcase downtown Safety Harbor by encouraging holiday visitors to shop, drink and dine local, started to catch on last year.

“Last year holiday visitors circulated the town for hours after the tree lighting to dine, shop and view the decorated doors and vote for their favorite,” Antiques to Aardvarks owner Martha Morrison wrote in a newsletter announcing the event, noting they collected more than 240 ballots in 2015. “We also have carolers circulating the street singing holiday tunes.”

The 10th annual Wreaths, Toys and Joy will be held on Saturday, Dec. 3 at the Safety Harbor Public Library from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.

The event, which serves as a benefit for the Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center, features food and wine, music and mingling, with dozens of creative holiday decorations up for auction. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the door. For more information, call 727-791-8255.

On Sunday, Dec. 11, the semiannual Kiwanis Arts & Crafts show takes over six blocks of Main Street from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Note: the street will be closed from Bayshore Boulevard to 6th Avenue from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.)

Santa on his annual ride through Safety Harbor on the back of a fire truck.

Santa on his annual ride through Safety Harbor on the back of a fire truck.

The show, which features dozens of arts, crafts and merchandise exhibitors, is a terrific place to pick up unique holiday gifts without battling the lines at the mall.

On Saturday, Dec. 10, kids 10 and under can enjoy a breakfast with Santa between 9-11:30 a.m. at the Rigsby Recreation Center. The cost is $3.00 for children, $6.00 for adults. Contact the center at 727-724-1545 for more information.

On the weekend of Dec. 16-17, two longtime holiday Harbor traditions take place.

On Friday the 16th, Santa will be visiting neighborhoods north of Enterprise Road on the back of a SHFD fire truck, and on Saturday the 17th, he will ride his red fire engine sleigh through the neighborhoods south of Enterprise Road. (Note: In the event of rain, expect to see Santa on Sunday, December 18.)

Last, but definitely not least, the 36th annual Safety Harbor Holiday Parade will put a bow on the city’s 2016 special events schedule on Saturday, Dec. 17. (Here’s a sneak peak at Safety Harbor’s 2017 calendar of special events.)

Spiderman at the 2015 Safety Harbor Holiday Parade.

Spiderman at the Safety Harbor Holiday Parade.

Starting at 1:00 p.m. and often running two hours, the parade features everything from classic cars and classical dancers to monster trucks and Marvel characters making the long procession down Main Street.

“This is such a terrific event every year,” City Commissioner Cliff Merz said after the 2014 event. “To have a parade like this in the heart of downtown, it really is special and should be enjoyed by all the residents and visitors to Safety Harbor.”

For more Safety Harbor special event information, visit the city’s website or call 727-724-1572.

Happy holidays, Harborites, from Safety Harbor Connect!

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