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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 5 years ago

Erika Spence: Business in the Park

In an attempt to simplify the holiday season, I've prepared a short checklist for all of us.
by: Erika Spence

I’m going to be honest. I have a love-hate relationship with the holiday season. I love Thanksgiving and taking the time to reflect and give thanks for the blessings in my life. I love spending time with my family and seeing my children’s eyes light up with joy. I love taking the time to select and make gifts for loved ones. It’s all the errands and calendar coordination that I really dislike. So in an attempt to simplify the season, I’ve prepared a short checklist for all of us.

Step one: Shop local

At this week’s City Commission meeting, Mayor Ken Bradley declared Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014, as Small Business Saturday in the city of Winter Park. I’m lock-step with the mayor on this one, encouraging you to shop locally on Saturday and all season long. This is your chance to show your support for the locally-owned, independent small businesses in our community. The folks at American Express have launched so you can plan your trip, even if you are out of town for the holiday weekend. Be sure to visit for a list of small businesses with special promotions for the day, and a map to guide you in your shopping.

Step two: Mark your calendar

Join the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Winter Park alumni for three events within an 18-hour period, beginning Friday, Dec. 5. Come down to Central Park and celebrate at the 25th annual Holiday Tree Lighting presented by Winter Park Towers. Beginning at 5 p.m., local children’s choirs will perform favorite carols, followed by the lighting of the holiday tree, live on WFTV Channel 9 with anchor Bob Opsahl. The event is also a collection point for Toys for Tots, so be sure to bring along a gift for someone in need.

Come back the following morning (Dec. 6) for the Leadership Winter Park Pancake Breakfast. The breakfast is presented by Fannie Hillman + Associates and Florida Power & Light and features hot pancakes and sausage, coffee, juice and delicious toppings by Whole Foods Market Winter Park. The breakfast runs from 7 to 10:30 a.m. and tickets are available in advance at, at the Winter Park Welcome Center, and the morning of the event. The cost is $4 for kids and $6 for adults.

Also on Dec. 7, you won’t want to miss the 62nd annual Winter Park “Ye Olde Hometown” Christmas Parade. Presented by Bright House Networks and hosted by News 13 Chief Meteorologist Jeff Day, this traditional parade features 100 entries, including marching bands, dance troupes, scout troupes, local dignitaries, and Santa Claus. The parade makes its way down Park Avenue at 9 a.m. and lasts about 90 minutes.

Step three: Show some love

There are two opportunities to vote for some of your favorite local businesses this holiday season. The first is the city of Winter Park’s “Winter in the Park” Holiday Window Contest. You can help determine the winner of this award, which recognizes local businesses for their creative window decorations. Visit and select the Holiday Windows tab to vote for your favorite.

The other opportunity is the prestigious Ovations Awards. Now in its third year, the “best of” guide recognizes 50 local businesses as voted by you! The task may seem daunting because it is not a multiple choice quiz, but a fill-the-blank, write-in vote that is truly by the people, for the people. Voting is open now through Dec. 31, 2014. Awards will be presented at the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce January Business After Hours event and a special guide will be printed in the Winter Park-Maitland Observer in February 2015. Online voting is available at

Best wishes for a simplified and joy-filled season!

Erika Spence is the senior director of marketing and communications at the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce.

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