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Luminary to brighten weekend on islands

By Staff | Dec 3, 2009

There will be light.

And lots of it.

Sanibel and Captiva will be lit up up like a Christmas tree – lots of Christmas trees that is – on Friday, Dec. 4 and Saturday, Dec. 5 during the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce’s 25th Anniversary Luminary Festival.

Sanibel will host the free event on Friday, Dec. 4 and Captiva will light up their island on Saturday, Dec. 5th.

The Luminary Festival is an islands-wide holiday event that brings together residents, visitors, businesses and organizations, promoting goodwill and community spirit.

Attendees will get a chance to “travel the trail,” look for numerous fun and festive places to get a bite to eat and shop. Some businesses will be holding raffles and fun promotions.

For those looking to relax a bit, there will be complimentary trolley service which will run from 5 to 9 p.m. Other highlights include, visits and photos with Santa, a live nativity scene, music and activities for the entire family.

“I think this year is going to be the biggest and best year yet,” said Bridgit Stone-Budd, the marketing director for the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce.

This year the event has doubled. Seven trolleys will be on hand to escort Luminary attendees. They started the event with three trolleys.

This year the Chamber and Barb Harrington who helped coordinate the event scrambled for volunteers for the ever-growing Luminary event. Without enough volunteers to ensure the safety of all those attending, the Chamber would have had to scrap the event, Stone-Budd said. But enough volunteers came through and the Luminary is ready to be lit up.

Stone-Budd said the event kicks off the holiday season on the islands drawing event goers from from all over the globe.

“It’s gotten so big,” Stone-Budd said. “It’s a really nice time of the year.”

Thousands of people journey to the islands to nibble on food at restaurants – many of which stay open longer – indulge in mini parties and enjoy entertainment and bands.

The event is a shopper’s delight with stores highlighting one-of-kind gifts and items.

Santa Claus will be on hand to greet children with candy canes and pose in pictures.

But perhaps even with all of the yummy food, shopping and entertainment venues there is one fixture of Luminary that lights in the minds of most who go.

The light.

Candles in paper bags lines the way to the shops and restaurants.

“Everything is lit with candles,” Stone-Budd said. “There’s nothing else like it.”

Capt. Louise Alt, owner of Water Woman Adventures, said she looks forward every year to seeing the islands lit up and glowing.

One of the other popular draws is the live nativity scene at the Sanibel Community Church. Inside church staff have recreated a scene designed to look as old Bethlehem did during the time Christ was born, said Elaine Donovan, a coordinator for the Old Bethlehem recreation.

The walk-through in Old Bethlehem will be a live half-hour theatrical event inside the church. It will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Last year over 1,000 people went to see the SCC church scene.

“It’s a real friendly atmosphere,” Donovan said. “I think it helps them to remember what Christmas is all about.”

On Sanibel, Luminary Festival participants include:

East End/Seahorse Shops – Reggae band and refreshments

Sanibel Island Book Shop – Book signing, music and refreshments

Jerry’s Center – Pictures with Santa and refreshments

Sanibel Community Church – Live nativity, music and refreshments

Tahitian Gardens – Cracker Blues Band and refreshments

Forever Green – Refreshments

Periwinkle Place – Pictures with Santa, entertainment and refreshments

Sanibel Congregational Church – Boutique, music and refreshments

Sanibel Community House – Santa’s Workshop, Cypress Lakes Choir and cookie decorating

The Village Shops – Guitarist Michael David and refreshments

Hungry Heron Plaza – Refreshments

Tower Gallery – Refreshments

Olde Sanibel Shoppes – The Sanibel School Choir and refreshments

Bailey’s Center – Gospel choir, music and refreshments

Participants on Captiva will include South Seas Island Resort, R.C. Otters, Keylime Bistro, Cantina Captiva, The Bubble Room, The Mucky Duck, Island Store, Royal Shell, Captiva Pizza & Yogurt and The Green Flash.

There will be 13 trolley stops along the trail, including East End/Seahorse Shops, Jerry’s Center, Tahitian Gardens, The Herb Strauss Schoolhouse Theater/Sanibel Community House, The Village Shops, Hungry Heron Plaza, Tower Gallery, Olde Sanibel Shoppes and Bailey’s Center. Trolleys will operate from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

Sponsors and special contributors for this year’s Luminary Festival include ShopOnSanibel.com, SandCastles, The Cedar Chest, CROW, the City of Sanibel, Waste Pro, Sanibel Fire Rescue District, Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, ABWA, Zonta, Tarpon Bay Explorers, Adventures In Paradise, South Seas Island Resort, Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, Hillgate Communications, Sanibel Community Church, Sanibel Congregational Church, St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, ‘Tween Waters Inn, Giggles, Sanibel Air Conditioning, Sanctuary Island Electric, chamber staff, ambassadors and volunteers as well as Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

For additional information, call the Islands of Sanibel & Captiva Chamber of Commerce at 472-1966 or visit www.sanibel-captiva.org.