Sue Carlson had so much fun at the Brownwood Tree Lighting Festival on Saturday that she wanted to do it all again. “My first impression was, wow,” Carlson said. “I couldn’t believe all that I saw.” So the Village of Woodbury resident came to the Spanish Springs Tree Lighting Festival on Monday. She dressed for the occasion wearing a red-and-green sweater with reindeer on it, green reindeer ears, nutcracker earrings and a Christmas lights necklace that glowed, which she got from the Brownwood Tree Lighting Festival. The Spanish Springs Tree Lighting Festival featured a Classic Christmas theme and included the tree-lighting ceremony and a new projection light show. Vendors wrapped around the square selling baked goods, jewelry and more. There were arcade games, street performances and stilt walkers.
The square was filled with Christmas decorations to add to the festivities. Garland and ornaments were wrapped around the stage and lampposts, and decorated Christmas trees were lined up for people to view. The tallest Christmas tree stood in the middle of the square and was decorated with large red bows and gold bells.
There also were performances throughout the night by Aloha ‘O Ka Hula, Cool Yule Band, the Original Villages Belly Dancers, The Villages Twirlers and Drum Corp and the Mystic Jewels Dance Troupe.
Carlson came to the festival with her partner, George Haman, of the Village of Woodbury and got a seat close to the stage and near the tree.
Many other attendees also gathered to witness the performances and the lighting of the tree.
Bill Smith and his wife, Donna, attended with their friends Village of Woodbury residents Tony and Toni Pagac. It has become a tradition for them to attend together since they met at one of the Tree Lighting Festivals seven years ago.
Bill always enjoys watching the people at the festival.
“It is so neat to see the people of our age smiling and having such a great time,” said Bill, of the Village of Briar Meadow. “That’s what it’s all about.”
The couples dressed up in the Christmas spirit. Bill wore a red-and-white suit, Donna wore leggings with Christmas light designs and they both had on matching Mickey Mouse Santa Claus hats. Toni wore a red sweater and Santa hat, and Tony had on reindeer ears.
Tony enjoys the tradition of the festival, especially when the lights are turned on.
“I get tears,” he said. “I just love it.”
The tree-lighting portion of the night began with Village of Springdale resident Billie Thatcher singing Christmas songs such as “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “We Need a Little Christmas” to the crowd. The Local Vocals group sang “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Silent Night” as a projection light show brightened the square. Afterward, Santa and Mrs. Claus stepped on stage and, as the attendees counted down from 10, plugged in a large cord that lit up the tree on the square. Attendees then came together and sang “White Christmas” while waving the flashlights on their phones.
“I have been here 24 years ... and this has been the most outstanding one,” Lori Elliott, of the Village Rio Grande, said of the Tree Lighting Festival.
Debbie and Rocky Hyder also enjoyed the event.
“The lighting was awesome,” Debbie said. “We were at Brownwood but Spanish Springs was even better.”
The Village De La Vista residents also plan to attend the Tree Lighting Festival at Lake Sumter Landing on Thursday.
The event is from 4 to 9 p.m and the theme is Coastal Christmas. There will be a projection light show, performances from groups such as the Silver Rockettes and The Villages Cheerleaders, and a lighted boat parade on Lake Sumter.
Staff writer Summer Jarro can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5404, or firstname.lastname@example.org.