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Festival of Lights to brighten the Cape’s downtown

By Staff | Nov 28, 2009

The annual Holiday Festival of Lights is set for Saturday, Dec. 5, from 4-10 p.m. in Cape Coral.
Organized by the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral and presented this year by Comcast, the festival is expected to draw a crowd to the city’s downtown.
Attendance for the Holiday Festival of Lights has grown quite a bit over the past five years, said Chamber of Commerce Special Events Director Bob Knickman.
The event, which attracted between 2,500 to 3,000 in its infancy, has grown to an attendance of about 20,000 people.
“It’s a really special feeling for this event,” he said, explaining that it is “much different than all the events we do.”
“We know that there will be a lot of families that will experience a different holiday season this year,” Knickman said. “For many, it will be the highlight of their holiday, that’s what we hope anyway.”
The Holiday Festival of Lights will feature a tree lighting, a visit from Santa Claus, holiday performances from local schools, churches and organizations. A free snowdrift slide, pictures with Santa Claus and a Tiny Tots Christmas Train Ride also will be available for everyone to enjoy next Saturday.
“We try to make it as special for families as possible,” he said.
Knickman said the Comcast Holiday Festival of Lights will again include the city’s official tree lighting ceremony, which will begin between 6 and 6:30 p.m. Saturday night in the Big John’s parking lot.
Directly after the ceremony, Santa will make an appearance, to hear all of the children’s wish lists for Christmas morning.
Knickman said the festival will feature 25 tons of ice, which will be shaved down to snow to create a snowdrift slide for all those children who live in Florida who have never experienced snow before.
The second annual gift basket auction, a silent auction, will feature holiday gift baskets worth $100 that nearly 40 Cape Coral Chamber members decorated and donated for the event. The baskets are all themed, providing those who buy raffle tickets with the opportunity to choose a personalized basket.
Knickman said all the money collected from the gift basket auction will go towards the Chamber of Commerce Education Committee, which provides scholarships for local Cape Coral high school students.
A holiday drive, added for the first time this year, began because the Chamber wanted to help out those who are struggling this holiday season.
“We are encouraging people to bring new clothing and wrapped toys,” he explained.
Toys may be dropped off at a tent set up by the tree the day of the event or may be dropped off at the Chamber of Commerce office near the foot of the Cape Coral bridge.
The chamber hopes that people are in the giving spirit this year, he said, adding that the more people who step up, the more families that can be helped.
The Cape Coral Community Foundation will match up to $5,000 dollar for dollar, which will allow the Chamber to use those funds to buy food and clothing for those who are not able to purchase things for their families.
The event also will have paid attractions, three different food courts and tree performance areas highlighting Christmas performances by local schools, churches and dance groups.
“Right now it looks like we will probably have about 70-80 vendors,” he said, which will have Christmas gifts on display.
“We invite everyone to come on down and start their holiday with us and the rest of their families and friends in Cape Coral,” Knickman said. “You don’t want to miss it, especially in these times we need something special to bring all of us together.”
“It is a great feeling of the community coming together,” he said, adding that “there will be a lot of people out there trying to raise money for different causes and help people out.”
He said he encourages all of the downtown businesses to open their doors and welcome everyone who attends the festival.
Knickman said he wanted to give a special thank you to all of the sponsors for the Comcast Holiday Festival of Lights and he 50-60 volunteers who are giving up their time to give the citizens a special event.
“It’s inspiring to see these folks become so dedicated in something for this community,” he said.
Cape Coral Parkway will close at 10 a.m. Saturday between 15th Avenue and Leonard Street and open again at midnight.