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Tallahassee Winter Festival and Celebration of Lights
December – Tallahassee, Florida
It was the fall of 1987, and the City of Tallahassee had just purchased new outdoor lights and decorations for the upcoming winter holiday season.
A small group of local citizens banded together to organize a small, intimate holiday community event, primarily to show off the new decorations. And thus, the first Winter Festival was staged, with all of one entertainment stage, the brief lighting ceremony and “Santa’s Alleyway” on the north side of City Hall.
Barely 6,000 hardy visitors braved bitter cold temperatures on the first Friday in December that year, but enough enthusiasm was created to turn the event into an annual celebration.
Over those first several years, the Winter Festival grew substantially, adding visitor-friendly elements including the Nighttime Holiday Parade, Santa’s Enchanted Forest, a food court, more live entertainment stages, fine arts competitions, the always-popular Jingle Bell Run and … for several years, the rather novel concept of ice skating – in Florida – outdoors!
Much as a city changes with time, the Winter Festival has as well. While some features have come and gone, the centerpiece event of the Celebration of Lights remains in all of its family-friendly glory. True to the event’s tag line of A Celebration of Lights, Music and the Arts, the Winter Festival annually incorporates a fine arts competition, and as a special treat for school-aged children, a youth ornament decorating contest. And on the afternoon and evening of the Celebration of Lights, the Lighting Ceremony, Jingle Bell Run, Nighttime Holiday Parade, food court and live entertainment all combine their unique elements to help Florida’s capital city welcome the winter holiday season.
Oh, and the crowds? From 6,000 in 1987, to approximately 200,000 each year since the mid-1990’s. Kids from 3 to 93 continue to revel in the winter extravaganza that began on a frosty Friday in 1987. Tallahassee loves its special events, and as the event enters its fourth decade, nothing is more special than the Winter Festival and Celebration of Lights.
For more information on the Winter Festival and Celebration of Lights, please visit the City of Tallahassee’s Parks, Recreation & Neighborhood Affairs Department at:
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