By ANDREA GALABINSKI
Expect snow, the official Holiday Tree Lighting, and, of course, the arrival of Santa at the popular CenturyLink Holiday Festival of Lights set for today in downtown Cape Coral.
Festivities will be held on Cape Coral Parkway stretching numerous blocks between Southwest 15th Ave. (Wendy's) to Candia Street (Burger King) from 4 to 10 p.m.
For more than 20 years, the South Cape has been home to Southwest Florida's largest annual holiday event.
"2012 will be one of the best Holiday Festival of Lights ever," said Mike Quaintance, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral. "We look forward to kicking off the holiday season with more than 20,000 friends, family and neighbors."
CenturyLink Holiday Festival of Lights
Saturday, Dec. 1
4 to 10 p.m.
* Free Snow Drift Slide
Sponsor: Vapin' In The Cape
Tiny Tots Train Rides
Sponsor: Kiwanis Club
of Cape Coral
* Free Kidz Street
Kidz Street and NotinMyCity.org campaign
Location: Cape Coral Parkway & Leonard Street
Sponsor: Cape Christian Fellowship
Kids play free on 6 inflatable attractions.
Free children arts & crafts
* Gift Basket Auction
Location: Cape Coral Parkway & Vincennes Blvd.
Time: 4 to 8:30 p.m.
Sponsor: Education Committee Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral
More than 40 donated holiday gift baskets worth at least $100.
All money raised goes to providing scholarships for local area high school seniors. Raised more than $4,400 in 2011.
* 6:15 p.m. Santa's arrival and Tree Lighting
Location: Big John's Town Center across from McDonalds on Cape Coral Parkway
More than 20 holiday performances from local groups, dance troupes and schools
Locations: Performance Area #1 Cape Coral Parkway by Snowdrift Slide
Performance Area #2 Cape Coral Parkway by the old Blockbuster location
Performance Area #3 Cape Coral Parkway & Vincennes Blvd.
Performance Area #4 Cape Coral Parkway & Leonard
Time: 4 to 10 p.m.
CenturyLink, LCEC, Cape Christian Fellowship, Vapin In The Cape, Kiwanis Club of Cape Coral, Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral, Budweiser,Community Redevelopment Agency, Caloosa Tent & Party Rental, Entech Computers, Cape Coral.com, Lite 93.7, Arrow 94.5, Waste Pro, Lamar Advertising, Wonderland Realty, The News-Press, ABC7, The Breeze Newspapers.
Chamber of Commerce
of Cape Coral
Santa will arrive at Big John's Town Center across from McDonalds on Cape Coral Parkway between 6:15 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., along with a tree lighting there.
One of the biggest attractions is "snow" - something many native Floridians have never seen. It will be part of the Snowdrift Slide, located on the open lot beside Wendy's restaurant.
"Two chutes are made out of snow, and it has Christmas trees intertwined like a holiday scene," Quaintance said.
New this year are carriage rides, much like the northern holiday tradition.
"We are going to have horse-drawn carriage rides; we haven't had that before. They will pick up by the Sweetbay lot."
Brett Bisbe is the event chairman, and owner of B2 Technology Solutions.
"It's been wonderful putting this event together. We have a great committee, and it is always nice to be able to put together a 'feel good event' for the community."
There are about 15 on the main committee, and around 100 volunteers for the event.
"Close to 100 local businesses are involved," he said.
For him, Santa is the biggest part of the event.
"I'm looking forward to Santa's arrival for the kids, including my kids."
He has two children of his own, Victoria, 11, and Cooper, 8.
"Cooper is especially looking forward to seeing Santa."
Brian Hamman is from the title sponsor CenturyLink. "The CenturyLink Holiday Festival of Lights is one of those great events that bring our community together every year," Hamman said. "We are absolutely excited to see it all come together tonight. We have many team members who have been working a significant amount of time towards this."
He grew up in Cape Coral, he said. Seeing the lights on Cape Coral Parkway in the last few years has always been a signal that the holiday season was here.