It was a picture-perfect Florida evening at Veterans Community Park as the Christmas Island Style Committee celebrated the 11th year of lighting the community Christmas Tree last Saturday evening.
Previous to the tree being located at its present location, it would be erected and lit in the parking lot near Publix at the Marco Town Center Plaza on North Collier Boulevard.
“The folks with Publix were always so generous as we would take-over their parking lot for the lighting ceremony. However, it would quickly become evident that we were running out of space as the event grew in popularity each year. I met with Dana Souza and Bill Moss to discuss the possibility of moving the event over to what is known today as Veterans Community Park. The city was preparing to lay down sod and install an irrigation system and I thought it was a perfect fit. I reached out to local contractors and the cement foundation was laid in place and our friends at Condee helped design the electric needs. What started with a couple of hundred people ended up growing into a couple of thousand wonderful neighbors and friends coming together for a great night each year for the last 11 years we’ve been here,” said Steve Stefanides who chairs the Christmas Island Style Committee.
Stefanides continued, “This is truly a collaborative effort between a lot of entities that make this happen each year. We just all work together to make the month-long activities appear seamless and better each year. The city and the committee have a wonderful relationship, as do our business community who has been so generous. LCEC each year provides us with a heavy-lift vehicle to help assemble our two trees, Condee loans us some the best and brightest of their team, the Italian American Society is always there to help assemble the tree and the list goes on and on. The last several years, we’ve also joined in an alliance with the ‘F’ Troop from the Island Country Club. One of my best friends, Wayne Purvis and his wife Susan are members of this great group and they have been so supportive of what we do. I can’t say enough wonderful things about them.”
This year, the CIS Committee joined in supporting the group Our Daily Bread Food Pantry and asked attendees to come to the tree lighting this year and bring a perishable item to donate to this group in their efforts to fight hunger in the greater Marco area. Their brightly decorated van was parked at the event, and the outpouring of support was overwhelming according to Wanda Burson and Barbara Dasti, who joined with Stefanides on the stage at the tree lighting to donate $500 to the work they do within the community.
The city’s new Police Chief, Tracy Frazzano, would be escorted to the stage by none other than Santa and Mrs. Claus to assist in a countdown for the lighting of the tree. Frazzano, a native of New Jersey who assumed the role as the first female to head a law enforcement agency in Collier County, would enjoy having the crowd join with her for a little “face-time” fun with friends up in her chilly hometown in New Jersey to do a Facebook shout out to them, with a couple thousand of her new best friends here on Marco Island, to the delight of the crowd.
Chief Frazzano would be joined on the stage with another new addition to the Marco community when Reverend Jessica Babcock of the St. Marks Episcopal Church would offer a blessing for the community tree, before Chief Frazzano, Santa and Mrs. Claus and all the attendees would countdown from 10 and light the tree.
SANTA COMING IN BY HELICOPTER
Santa will be arriving at the Mackle Park Community Center via the Christmas Island Style’s helicopter sharply at 10 AM on Saturday to have cookies and milk with the children of the island and have their pictures taken. The excitement will grow as Mr. and Mrs. Claus circle the field, before touching down and taking a stroll around those that assemble for the event.
The helicopter will stay for about 30 minutes to allow for pictures with families.
At 6:30 PM, the Annual Christmas Street Parade will step off and proceed from Balfour Drive and march down San Marco Road and proceed to Barfield Drive, on Saturday, December 14th. The committee would ask your assistance in making sure you clean up your areas where you watch the parade. Many large tailgating parties will go on along the route and they ask that you bring your own trash bags and take your rubbish home with you.
Come early and enjoy the event. The judges’ stands are located near the Ace Hardware Store near the end of the parade at Barfield and San Marco Road.
The Annual Christmas Boat Parade is next Saturday, December 21st. You may download an application on the CIS website by going to www.christmasislandstyle.com. The committee encourages you to decorate your boat in festive Christmas decorations and enjoy a wonderful evening on the water.
The route of the parade can be found at the CIS website by going to www.christmasislandstyle.com. You may also go to the Snook Inn, the Marco Island Yacht Club or the Esplanade. There are many areas along the route, or if you’re lucky, get invited to many of the house parties that will be held that evening along the route.