Nothing says 'Happy holidays!" like running up the electricity bill.
And so, with a reverent nod to the utilities, area cities and organizations flip the switch on lights (icicle, flicker flame, multi-colored, blinking, etc.) and offer a cornucopia of festive activities.
It's as if these groups have conspired to inspire us to get out there and right the economy with holiday spending by first providing a handful of free fun.
The Ybor City Museum Society presents Feliz Navidad, a holiday festival that features seasonal decorations, living history performers, domino players and children's activities. The event takes place from noon to 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 28; and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19. Ybor City Museum State Park is located at 1818 E. Ninth Ave., Ybor City (813-242-1434).
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker throws the light switch, illuminating a 40-foot tree, at the kick-off of Sno-Fest, a "Holiday by the Bay" theme festival that includes performances by the Grace Lutheran Hand Bell Choir and jazz by Suzette Jennings & Mood Swingz. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 28, in Straub Park, located on Beach Drive, adjacent to Vinoy Park. For more info, call 727-823-2000.
Old Hyde Park Village hosts its annual Enchanted Tree Lighting Ceremony from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 28, featuring live music by the St. John's Episcopal Men & Boys Choir, the Florida Arts School and the Salvation Army Brass Band. In addition to the elaborately decorated, 30-foot tree, Old Hyde Park Village also offers carriage rides, pony rides, movies in the park and photos with Santa, through Christmas. Old Hyde Park Village is located at Rome and Swann avenues near Bayshore Boulevard. For more info, call 813-251-3500.
And the city of Clearwater holds FantaSea of Lights, "an enchanting holiday stroll by the sea," as part of the Sunsets at Pier 60 series. Visitors can take in a classic Florida sunset over the Gulf, thousands of lights depicting sea creatures, caroling, live music and artwork by local crafters. There is also a Snow Play Day — where kids can build a snow castle, make a snow angel or just marvel at 10 tons of snow — from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 29. FantaSea of Lights runs from two hours before sunset to two hours after, Nov. 28-Jan. 2. Pier 60 is located on Clearwater Beach, where State Road 60 practically meets the sand. For more info, call 727-434-6060.