Fall is outdoor festival season in The Villages

Maricarmen Rottenburg, of the Village of Hadley and a member of the Spanish Folkloric Group, performs for the audience at the 2019 Heritage Festival.

With the summer turning into autumn in the coming weeks, another season isn’t too far behind: festival season on the town squares. “We look forward to being able to see the community out and about and enjoying themselves, creating long-lasting memories with friends and family,” said Chalsi Cox, special events manager for The Villages Entertainment. The Villages Heritage Festival will be spread out over two days; one spotlighting European countries from 4 to 9 p.m. Oct. 1 at Spanish Springs and one spotlighting Asian, African, North American and South American countries from 4 to 9 p.m. Oct. 8 at Lake Sumter Landing.

Those who attend can take part in the passport challenge, where they pick up a passport at the information tent and search for a particular logo on four vendors’ tents. After those four vendors stamp their passport, they can return to the information tent to receive a commemorative pin.

This challenge was introduced at the Heritage Festival a couple of years ago.

“People were having fun with it,” Cox said. “They were running all over the place trying to find the logos.”

The Prime Time Twirlers Show Team will represent Scotland during the Oct. 1 edition of the Heritage Festival, dancing to a number of Scottish tunes. Tom Dalton will make his return as a guest bagpiper.

“The crowd really enjoys him,” team captain Elin Jones said.

The 20-member team, whose members twirl more than just batons in their shows, also plans on making an appearance during the Tree Lighting Festival at Brownwood Paddock Square.

“It’s so much fun to entertain Villages residents and their guests,” said Jones, of the Village of Mallory Square. “The crowd never gets bored. Everybody (on the team) has such a great time and works very hard.”

The Silver Rockettes, a resident precision dance team, will perform during the Oct. 8 edition of the Heritage Festival. The team will feature routines set to mainly patriotic music, which will include dancing to the fight songs of the branches of the U.S. military.

“It’s a crowd favorite,” the group’s creative director Georgette Getz said.

The 22-member group, which participated in the first Heritage Festival held in 2019, hasn’t performed since the 2020 Strawberry Festival. Now that things are slowly moving forward, the group also is scheduled to perform at two of the Tree Lighting Festivals.

“The ladies get validation from the crowd,” said Getz, of the Village of Tamarind Grove. “It’s all the hard work that you do. They get to put on the costumes and all of that. The people let you know how much they appreciate what you’ve done.”

Just in time for the ghoulish holiday, Hometown Halloween will materialize from 2 to 9 p.m. Oct. 30 at Brownwood. It will include a trunk-and-treat section, a haunted house, hay rides and carnival games for children. Expect to also find market vendors, resident performers and strolling entertainment.

On Nov. 6 and 7, American Craft Endeavors will return to Spanish Springs Town Square for its 24th annual Art and Craft Festival.

“Everyone loves the arts and crafts festival,” Cox said. “It’s very popular and it’s very big. They bring in a lot of craft vendors.”

To help ring in the Christmas season, the Tree Lighting Festivals will start Nov. 27 at Lake Sumter Landing, then move to Spanish Springs on Nov. 30 and Brownwood on Dec. 3.

Residents can start shopping for unwrapped toys to donate to one of three organizations at each event: the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, the Children’s Advocacy Center and the Ronald McDonald House of North Central Florida.

In between all of these, on the third Saturday of the month, the pavement around Spanish Springs Town Square is filled with numerous classic cars. A different car club is spotlighted each month, and people can vote for their top four cars.

The Villages Entertainment starts planning for the festivals right after the previous year’s festival ends. Because the Heritage Festival wasn’t held last year, that gave the entertainment department more time to work on the new decor.

“We try to be a year out, especially during the holiday,” Cox said. “The entertainment gets picked up very fast. We want to make sure we have the entertainment that we want to bring to The Villages.”

Staff Writer Michael Fortuna can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5273, or michael.fortuna@thevillagesmedia.com.