Luminary Holiday Stroll to ignite holiday spirit on Sanibel, Captiva
The islands will usher in the holidays leading into the weekend with an annual two-day tradition.
Hosted by the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce, the 34th annual Luminary Holiday Stroll will take place on Dec. 7 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. along Periwinkle Way on Sanibel, followed by the same festivities on Dec. 8 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. along Captiva Drive and Andy Rosse Lane on Captiva.
“It kicks off the season for us on Sanibel and Captiva,” chamber President John Lai said.
He explained that it started as a way to promote “shop small” for island retailers.
“But, it’s evolved into more of a community event that brings the community together,” Lai said.
For the Luminary Holiday Stroll, lit paths will lead the way to landmarks, where attendees will enjoy activities, snacks and refreshments provided by participating businesses, organizations and entities.
This year, the event will kick off with a ribbon cutting and grand opening for the chamber’s newly renovated Visitor’s Center on Dec. 7 at 5 p.m. at 1159 Causeway Road, Sanibel. The project included interior renovations of the ground floor and installation of interactive digital displays for travelers.
There will also be a tree lighting at 6 p.m., followed by an open house until 7 p.m.
“The biggest difference between this year and last is the festivities at the Visitor Center,” he said.
Residents and visitors are invited to stop by and pick up a Luminary map, with some cookies.
“Take a look at what we’ve done on the inside,” Lai said.
The Luminary Holiday Stroll on Sanibel will extend from the east end of the island, near Pinocchio’s and the Sanibel Sea School, to the Olde Sanibel Shoppes and Bailey’s Shopping Center at the west end. Along the route, entities within the shopping plazas, stand-alone businesses and more are taking part.
“Santa will be at Jerry’s,” he said. “We’ll have some carolers at different destinations.”
Periwinkle Place will feature live music with performances by the Children’s Choir of the Islands, Malibu Duo and Megan Rose Duo. Visitors will also have an opportunity to meet with Santa.
“Stores will be offering food or drink or both, or live music as well,” Lai said.
The Tahitian Gardens and Village Shops are among the spots offering holiday tunes.
He noted that people simply need to look for the lit Luminary bags.
“There will be activities for kids – face painting, coloring – things like that,” Lai said, adding that some offer crafts. “Some businesses hand out Christmas ornaments or shopping bags for free.”
As in years past, the event is designed to be family-friendly and for all ages.
“We’ll have a lot of things geared to the families,” he said.
The Sanibel Sea School will feature activities like ocean-themed ornament making and cookie decorating, as well as craft beer and wine and food from the grill. Along with festive holiday dcor, there will be music and a slideshow of surfing photos and videos that will be projected outside.
For the adults, like parents and grandparents, the free food and drinks are always a hit.
The Community House will have stocking stuffers, ornaments, bags of popcorn and glasses of wine available until 8 p.m., along with holiday appetizer samples made by Resident Chef Jarred Harris.
Lai estimated that more than 1,000 people come out and take part each year.
“This is something that is right out of a Hallmark movie,” he said.
While the Luminary Holiday Stroll on Captiva will be held the next evening during the same time period, the northern island has its own unique tradition leading up to the kick off of the annual event.
Sponsored by South Seas Island Resort, the ninth annual Captiva Holiday Village Golf Cart Parade features holiday-decorated entries hoping to win the title of Best Commercial, Best Non-Commercial, Best of Show or the People’s Choice Award. Lai explained that anyone can enter for a $20 entry fee.
“It is a great event,” he said. “It is something that the community comes out for.”
The parade runs from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Starting out from South Seas, participants will wind down Captiva Drive and then along Andy Rosse Lane, Chapin Lane and Wiles Drive, before taking Captiva Drive back to the resort. Check-in for golf carts will be held at 2 p.m., with the judging at 2:30 p.m.
“Last year, we had over 50 golf carts decorated in holiday dcor,” Lai said.
Fire Chief Jeff Pawul confirmed that the Captiva Island Fire District will be participating.
“We typically use the beach rescue vehicle to carry Santa in the parade,” he said.
For details or to sign up, contact Sunny Island Adventures at 954-850-9240.
Proceeds from the parade will be donated to the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.
As for the Luminary Holiday Stroll that follows, it will mirror the event on Sanibel.
“It will feature live music, Santa, some face painting and activities for both kids and adults,” Lai said, noting that once again on-island businesses and entities will offer up their own freebies and treats.
Sandy Stilwell, owner of Stilwell Enterprises, explained that several of her restaurants will be taking part in the holiday festivities. The Keylime Bistro Bruschetta will be handed out at the Keylime Bistro, while attendees can enjoy eggnog at RC Otter’s Island Eats or chips and salsa at the Cantina Captiva.
“At the Sunshine Seafood Cafe we give out Christmas cookies,” she said.
The Captiva Island Inn will be lit up with seasonal dcor.
Stilwell noted that RE/MAX of the Island always has something going on. John Nauman and Associates typically has a holiday display set up with free wine and homemade run cake.
“That’s always a big hit,” she said of the cake.
Stilwell has been taking part in the Luminary activities since 1999.
“It’s just a wonderful way of welcoming in the holidays and enjoying all of our friends and neighbors,” she said. “It’s just great for all of the different merchants and people to open all of their doors.”
An estimated couple hundred people attend the Captiva event.
“There will be giveaways at a lot of the stores and restaurants,” Lai said. “But it’s really just an opportunity to come out and kick off the holiday season.”
Residents and visitors are encouraged to take part in this year’s island tradition.
“It’s a great way to come out and shop local, eat local,” he said. “And it’s certainly a good way to see the community in all of its holiday spirit, which you can only experience one month out of the year.”
The presenting sponsor this year is the Island Inn, while Bank of the Islands, Sanibel Captiva Community Bank, Periwinkle Place and Jerry’s Foods are the gold sponsors for the event.