Town squares sizzle with special events

Carmen Raby, left, of the Village of Glenbrook, dances with Marta Andino, of the Village Tierra Del Sol, during the Mardi Gras Festival last year at Spanish Springs Town Square.

Browse handcrafted goods, dance the night away in your favorite neon attire, waltz down streets full of gleaming cars, chow down on strawberry shortcake and pose with stilt walkers clad in shiny beads. As the busy season for special events ramps up, these are all activities people will be able to do this month on the three Villages town squares. And the fun doesn’t stop there. March brings St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Spanish Springs Town Square and Lake Sumter Landing Market Square. “Our goal is to create fun, new and exciting opportunities for our community to enjoy,” said Chalsi Cox, special events manager. “With the community continuing to grow and evolve, we want to ensure our events continue to grow and evolve as well, to provide the best experience.” The fun-filled month of February kicks off with the February Arts & Crafts Show

from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Saturday and Sunday on Spanish Springs Town Square.

At this free event, people can browse handcrafted items including leather goods, paintings, glassworks, photography and more.

Those looking for something to do on Valentine’s Day should head to Lake Sumter Landing for an ‘80s Glow Party.

The Spazmatics, an ’80s Revenge of the Nerds-style band, will perform from 5 to 9 p.m. Feb. 14 at Lake Sumter Landing Market Square. The event will include neon and light-up decorations, a free photo booth and more.

“We will be handing out lighted rings, bracelets, necklaces and lighted batons,” said Mary Carlson, square entertainment coordinator.

Carlson said she wanted to do something special for Valentine’s Day this year.

“Wear ’80s, neon or light-up attire,” she said.

Meanwhile, car lovers will have three events to choose from this month.

The February Cruise In will take place from 4 to 9 p.m. Feb. 15 at Spanish Springs Town Square. It will feature live entertainment and food trucks.

Next, there will be a Monday Night Car Show from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 17 at Lake Sumter Landing Market Square featuring The Villages Porsche Club, and The Villages Street Rod Golf Car Club will be featured in the Friday Night Car Show slated from 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 28 at Lake Sumter Landing.

February also is a big month for festivals.

The Strawberry Festival will be held from 2 to 9 p.m. Feb. 21 at Brownwood Paddock Square.

“Expect continuous street performances,” Cox said. “We are bringing back our pie-eating contest for the second year, and I’m hoping for more pie-eating volunteers. Our carnival games are bigger and better, so be ready for some carney fun.”

The event, which is sponsored by Pelican Water and Edward Jones and benefits Operation Shoebox, will also include more than 50 market vendors, a tractor museum, a hay ride and more.

Entertainers like The Villages Cheerleaders, Sweet & Sassy and more will perform throughout the event, and attendees can try food from vendors like The Kettle Corn Cabin and Impasto.

“We are bringing in some fresh food trucks, so be on the lookout for new cuisines,” Cox said.

On Feb. 25, there will be more festival fun with the Mardi Gras Festival from 4 to 9 p.m. on Lake Sumter Landing Market Square.

“(There will be) elaborate street performances from the 2nd Line Mardi Gras Band, stilt walkers and magicians,” Cox said.

There will also be main stage performances by groups like Stu Okra and the Fixins, Aloha ‘O Ka Hula, Sweet & Sassy, Mystic Jewels Dance Troupe and The Original Villages Belly Dancers.

After the Mardi Gras Festival, people don’t have long to wait for the next special events.

St. Patrick’s Day Festivals will be held from 4 to 9 p.m. March 13 on Lake Sumter Landing Market Square and 4:45 to 9 p.m. March 17 at Spanish Springs Town Square. Both events will include live entertainment, food and market vendors and more.

For more information on upcoming events on the squares, visit thevillagesentertainment.com.

Cox recommends coming to events in golf carts, if possible, to make room for more parking availability.

“Our goal is to create an unforgettable experience here in The Villages, and I hope we can go above and beyond the expectations to execute our goal,” she said. “I hope people take home fun and exciting memories from our festivals, and continue to enjoy what the squares have to offer on a daily basis.”

Senior writer Kristen Fiore can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5270, or kristen.fiore@thevillagesmedia.com.