Tallahassee turns into a winter wonderland

Candy Cane Lane entrance located in McCarty Park. | Photo credit: Keyonna A. Howcott

Tallahassee’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Affairs Department turned the city’s downtown into a winter wonderland on Saturday.

It’s what happens every first Saturday in December — Winter Festival: A Celebration of Lights, Music and Arts.

According to Mario Palmentieri, recreation supervisor, preparation started months in advance along with the 4th of July celebration. “This festival is a citywide effort and it’s amazing how it works. We work with everyone from Tallahassee Police Department to the Utilities division,” Palmentieri said.

A number of road blocks cleared traffic for the main festivities as well as the parade. This was the 31st annual rendition of the event. According to a City of Tallahassee press release, the Winter Festival was originally known as the “Holiday Lights Festival.”

The children’s activity area, located at the Kleman Plaza, featured tons of holiday fun from hands-on arts and crafts to bounce houses. With five vendors stages of entertainment and food in every direction, the fun was endless. There were performances almost every 30 minutes from local companies including Tallahassee Ballet, and Young Actors theatre.

The lighting ceremony began at 6 p.m. on the Parade Judge’s platform, located at Bloxham Park. Promptly after the lighting ceremony, thousands of visitors took their places at the start of the Capital Health Plan Jingle Bell Run. Runners were adorned in festive holiday attire as the run began and ended at Park Avenue and Monroe Street, taking runners around downtown Tallahassee.

The excitement never stopped as the parade goers gathered at 7:15 p.m. along Monroe Street from Tennessee to Madison streets. Some visitors prepared seating as early as 4 p.m. The Nighttime Holiday Parade was a fan favorite and featured over 65 entrees, according to a City of Tallahassee press release.

Robert Olmsted and wife Laura reflected on their blissful night with their canine companion, Georgia. “It’s really authentic and home-style, and it makes memories the children will remember for the rest of their lives,” Olmsted said.

Laura Olmsted agreed with her husband. “The whole parade is so Tallahassee.”

Laura was raised in Tallahassee and her husband has been a resident for over 45 years.

“My favorite was the utility truck. Those guys deserve a big hand for the work they did this year,” Laura said.

The event gave residents a sense of holiday cheer as the weather can be confusing. The day was sunny and during the night, cool and foggy. That did not stop the city of Tallahassee from turning downtown into a winter wonderland.

“The floats were the best part,” Zamonie Thompson said, while her family loaded the car. After a long day full of holiday fun the family was ready to head home. “It was very colorful and the kids had the most fun,” Thompson said, while helping the children in the car.

Face painting and games were enjoyed by both young and old. The City of Tallahassee did it again along with Santa’s little helpers and Candy Cane Lane, a sight to see this year as the exhibit will remain open until Sunday, Dec. 10. This holiday hideout is open for viewing in McCarty Park from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.