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Holiday Festival of Lights

Annual celebration will go on, with a few changes

By CJ HADDAD - | Dec 3, 2020

The official kickoff to the holiday season in Cape Coral will still go on this year as Santa Claus is set to light the tree on the parkway once again.

The Holiday Festival of Lights is set to conjure a festive atmosphere in the South Cape, filled with visits from the big man in the North Pole to actual sledding in Big John’s Plaza. Some would say it takes a bit of magic each year.

The celebration takes place from noon to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, and is presented by The Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral and made possible by the Gunterberg Charitable Foundation – Culliton Family.

“We are extremely grateful to be able to host this event in 2020 for the community,” said chamber President/CEO Donna Germain. “This year has been difficult for everyone, so the idea of just canceling it without offering any kind of holiday event for our community was not an option for us. Luckily, we were able to create a new plan that worked best for the situation we are all dealing with and create a safe environment for people to come out and enjoy some holiday spirit.”

Organizers have tweaked an event that’s brought jubilation to Southwest Florida for over three decades to fit the year 2020. Cape Coral Parkway will not be closed and flooded with patrons. Instead, Big John’s Plaza will serve as holiday central. The lighting of the tree will close the festivities instead of the kickoff to the evening.

Event staff and all vendors will be wearing masks and a sanitation crew will be at every attraction.

Germain said they have created a “Holiday Pass” system where people can register for their event attendance time to help limit the number of people in the area at once. There will only be a certain amount of attendees allowed in the area at one time. A registration receipt must be presented at the event gate to Big John’s Plaza for entry at your scheduled registration time.

As always, the event is free to the public.

Germain said keeping the public safe at the festival is at the top of their priority list.

“We did our research into what the theme parks were doing and expanded from there,” Germain said. “Each event attraction will have a sanitizing crew on hand to make sure everyone has a safe experience. All vendors and event staff are required to wear masks at the event. We highly recommend masks to those attending the event as well. Lines will be spaced to safely socially distance as well.”

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be arriving at noon to officially kick off Cape Coral’s holiday season and will be available for pictures with the little ones.

Next to Santa, kids can have a blast on the15-ton snow slide, a rare chance to hit the slops in Southwest Florida. Kiwanis Club of Cape Coral is sponsoring the Tiny Tot’s Train Ride on Vincennes Boulevard. There will be a performance stage with local entertainers and dance troupes performing throughout the day.

Attendees are also encouraged to take part in the Holiday Food Drive to benefit the Cape Coral Caring Center by bringing a food or monetary donation to help families in need.

It’s no secret small businesses have been impacted greatly by the COVID-19 pandemic, and this event often serves as a boost. Now more than ever, officials urge the public to help a fellow neighbor and shop small for the holidays.

“This is one of the most important community events we do,” Germain said. “It is a longtime Cape Coral tradition and we were very passionate about being able to provide some form of it for our community this year, so we created different options aside from the full-blown event and luckily, this plan was something we were all able to agree on.

“For many businesses in the South Cape area, this is one of their busiest nights of the year for them,” she continued. “And while we are unable to put on the full event with 20,000 people along Cape Coral Parkway, we hope and ask that everyone please come out to shop local that day and into the evening as we close the event with the tree lighting.”

A myriad of South Cape small businesses are emanating holiday spirit and have been hard at work decorating storefronts for the public to enjoy. Germain hopes residents get a chance to feel the festive spirit from each of these businesses and will announce the winner of their decorating contest just before the tree lighting.

Parking for the Festival of Lights is on a first-come first-serve basis in the public parking lots. Event parking will not be available in Big John’s Plaza.

To ensure the safety of the community and volunteers, Vincennes Boulevard and Big John’s Plaza will be closing at 5 a.m. on Dec. 5. The plaza will reopen following the tree lighting and Vincennes will reopen by 10 p.m. that evening.

For more information on the Holiday Festival of Lights, call 239-549-6900. To register for the event, visit www.capecoralchamber.com.

The event gate is located at the Southeast 47th Terrace entrance of Big John’s Plaza.

–Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj