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By Staff | Dec 16, 2011

Christmas is just over a week away, a virtual eternity for those with visions of ripping open gifts and feasting on ham with family and friends.

Luckily, starting this weekend the city of Cape Coral has two events to help stave off the Christmas thirst.

Sunday marks the return of the wildly popular “Holiday Boat-A-Long,” featuring 100 boats decked out in holiday lights.

Entering its 35th year, the “Boat-A-Long” brings together family and friends to Four Freedoms Park to watch the boats parade through the Bimini Basin, and the canals around the park area.

There’s also a full slate of family-themed activities, including the arrival of the big man himself, Santa Claus, who storms the shore of Four Freedoms Park on his own water craft.

City Recreation Specialist Theresa Hart said she expects at least 3,000 people to attend the event, which runs from 4-9 p.m.

This year’s “Boat-A-Long” is sponsored by Sea-Tow, which will be helping to collect toys for the Toys for Tots campaign.

Heather Fabrizzi, a senior dispatcher at Sea-Tow, said the company plans on stopping by homes along the parade route where parties are being held, collecting toys as they go.

She said some parties use a new, unwrapped toy as their entry fee, and end up collecting dozens of toys through the night.

Last year, Sea-Tow was able to collect five truckloads worth of toys, Fabrizzi said. And this year they expect collect more.

“We want to help our community and it puts us in the Christmas spirit,” Fabrizzi said. “We’re always looking for ways to help out our community.”

You can register your boat, or your party if you’re collecting toys, with Sea-Tow by calling 945-4820.

Hart said the city was ecstatic to have Sea-Tow as a sponsor and she hopes people are able to donate as many toys as possible.

The fun starts at 4 p.m. for all the “landlubbers”, according to the city’s website. Santa arrives at 6 p.m., while the parade begins at 7 p.m.

After the Boat-A-Long, Santa Claus is going to be sticking around Cape Coral for a few days.

He’ll be moving over to the Sun Splash Festival Grounds, setting up Christmas Town as part of the “Santa Land” celebration that lasts four days, starting next week.

Santa Land combines everything to get families into the holiday spirit.

Guests hop on board the Polar Express to catch a ride into Christmas Town, where they’ll meet Santa, play reindeer games and enjoy four different rides.

Hart said the train ride is “pretty spectacular,” with 25 light displays and a 25-foot-tall Christmas tree to enthral riders while heading over to Christmas Town.

“We think this is a wonderful event for families,” Hart said.

Daily admission is $5 per person, according to the city’s website.

The $5 admission gets you in the gate to enjoy a ride on the Polar Express, the Christmas light show and sitting with Santa Claus in Christmas Town.

A $10 Magic Pass is also available, which includes gate admission to the event plus holiday crafts, rides and a photo with Santa for one day.

There will also be individual ride tickets sold at the gate for carnival rides and train rides. Parking is free.

Santa Land runs from Dec. 20-23, 5-10 p.m. each night, on the grounds at Sun Splash Water Park.

The two events mark a special time in Cape Coral, getting families in the holiday mood while having lots of fun, according to Hart.

“This is a great time to be a kid in Cape Coral,” she said.

For more information contact the Cape Coral Parks and Recreation Department at 573-3125.