Put down the Thanksgiving leftovers and brace yourself for Winter Park’s upcoming holiday bonanza.
As is tradition, this weekend is the annual celebration of Christmas, and the city is bringing all the sights and sounds of the holiday with a tree-lighting ceremony, pancake breakfast and the 65th annual “Ye Olde Hometown” Christmas Parade.
“What’s really important in Winter Park is that there are a whole bunch of people committed to making sure that sacred traditions remain that way,” said Betsy Gardner Eckbert, president and CEO of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. “It’s really important for us to do the things that we do that make us different, and I think having a tiny parade with lots of Girls Scouts, and marching bands and lots of community organizations is a really important way for us to all gather around what is great about Winter Park and celebrate it.”
The weekend will kick off with the lighting of a new digital tree at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, in Central Park, followed by a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus from 6:30 to 8 p.m. for photos and wishlists.
Those taking in the night’s festivities also will be able to enjoy shopping on Park Avenue, and carolers will sing holiday classics up and down the Avenue.
Saturday’s fun kicks off early at 7 a.m. with the annual pancake breakfast, hosted by Leadership Winter Park, at the Central Park stage. Then, the highlight of the weekend will begin at 9 a.m., when the “Ye Olde Hometown” Christmas Parade steps off.
The parade, which will start at Cole Avenue and run south where it will end at Lyman Avenue, will include 90 participants — including marching bands from local high schools, Girl Scouts, local fire and police departments, community leaders, and, of course, Santa.
With the annual parade well into its sixth decade, the event has become a family tradition that has transcended multiple generations.
“This is a parade that, because it has gone on so long, you’ve got maybe three generations of families that were in the parade — they remember being in the parade themselves, they were a parent watching their kid in the parade and now there are grandparents watching their grandchild in the parade,” Gardner Eckbert said. “And I think having the ability to do that, and connect with your own childhood memory or your own children’s childhood memories, and certainly your grandchild’s childhood memories is one of the really big connective tissue pieces that makes Winter Park so special.”