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Festival of Lights rings in the holidays

By Staff | Dec 4, 2011

Elizabeth Beers, 2-1/2, watched as her dad David packed a tight snowball, stacking it onto two already carefully balanced at her feet.

As daddy displayed the small snowman, she gave the creation a shove, laughing and clapping as the tiny tower tipped on its side.

She gave it a pat, laughing again as she looked for daddy’s reaction to her contribution to their project.

David Beers was all smiles as were parents by the score clustered Saturday in the area of the Kiwanis snowdrift at the Festival of Lights held downtown along Cape Coral Parkway.

“She loves it,” Beers said about the time Elizabeth was having. “She loves reading books about snow, but I don’t think she knew it would be so cold and wet.”

The dual sled tracks packed into the tower of shaved ice proved popular through the night as child after child took turns at a winter tradition seldom available where the afternoon temperatures hovered in the mid 70s, bringing out holiday celebrants by the thousands.

“It’s the first time they’ve seen snow,” said Judy Manning, there with her grandchildren, Kaiden Dick, 6, and Rilyn Dick, 4.

Kaiden was pretty pleased with his run down the snow mountain while seated on a sledding circle that spun its way down the track.

“I was afraid,” Kaiden said. “I fell right on my butt.”

Organized by the Chamber of Commerce and the city of Cape Coral, and title sponsored by Comcast, the Festival of Lights is one of the Cape’s largest and most popular events.

This year more than 70 vendors lined the streets, businesses along the parkway kept their doors open late and the cookies plates full, and Santa himself made his always welcome guest appearance amidst a flurry of “snow” flakes that attached to caps and curls.

“We come every year,” said Cape mom Michelle Zeis, whose son Aiden, 3, had taken a run down the snowdrift. “We want to see the lights this year; last year we missed the lights.”

The annual lighting of the 40-plus foot Christmas tree on the parkway side of Big John’s Plaza rivals the snowdrift in popularity each year as it also highlights the much-anticipated arrival of Santa.

This year, St. Nick made his way through the applauding crowd after exiting a horse-drawn carriage.

He took the place of honor at the foot of the tree while children lined up to patiently await their turn on his lap.

Meanwhile, live entertainment on three stages and some impromptu storefronts kept the festive spirit in high gear.

“I come every year,” said DeeDee Parsons, a Fort Myers resident who was enjoying a dance performance with Cape residents Ryana Parson and her son Kristopher, 3. “We love this.”

Pauline Carnivale, who came down from St. Cloud to visit her cousin, loved it as well.

“Fantastic,” she said after getting her photo taken with Buster the Bear at one of the vendor booths. ‘I’m originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., so this is new.”