It has become a tradition for many resident performance groups: the chance to ring in the holiday season at one of three The Villages tree-lighting festivals in town squares. The Sweet and Sassy line dance team, which has been part of the event for over a decade, began work on its program in June.
Were ready to go play, said group leader Faith Schnell. We have always enjoyed it. Their mood is so good during the Christmas season.
Over a period of several days, each of the three 35-foot trees in town squares will come to life with Christmas cheer. Spanish Springs Town Square is the first to have its tree on fire, with the Classic Christmas Tree Lighting Festival scheduled for Saturday.
Two days later, Brownwood Paddock Square will host the Sugar Plum Tree Lighting Festival on November 30.
To complete the holiday tradition on December 2, the
Coastal Tree Lighting Festival at Sumter Landing Lake Marketplace. All three events, presented by The Villages Entertainment, will run from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Tree lighting is a great opportunity to bring people out safely and to have the opportunity to kick off the holiday season with our tree lighting festival in a safe environment, said Chalsi Cox, Events Manager specials for The Villages Entertainment.
As with the nightly entertainment, a limited number of people will be allowed to enter the square for the festivities. They must provide their own chair.
Participation is first come, first served.
Those who are admitted will enter Spanish Springs Town Square from the side opposite MVP; Lake Sumter Landing by the fountain on Lake Shore Drive; and Brownwood between the bar huts along Brownwood Boulevard.
Hand washing and disinfection stations will be available at various places in the squares. Participants are requested to wear masks.
The tree-lighting ceremonies will begin around 7:45 p.m., with Billie Thatcher leading the audience in a song and a countdown. Christmas tenors will join her at ceremonies at Sumter Landing Lake and Brownwood, while local voices will sing at the Spanish Springs ceremony.
Each event will highlight a different charity. The Spanish Springs organization is the Childrens Advocacy Center. The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office will be hosting a toy drive at Sumter Landing Lake, and representatives from North Central Florida’s Ronald McDonald House Charities will be in Brownwood to pick up toys.
Several groups of residents will get people into the holiday spirit with their programs throughout the night.
In Spanish Springs, The Villages Cheerleaders, Original Villages Belly Dancers and Sounds of Scotland will perform.
In Brownwood, expect to see Aloha O Ka Hula, Sugar and Spice, the Silver Rockettes, and the Prime Time Twirlers.
At Sumter Landing Lake, Sweet and Sassy, Aloha O Ka Hula, The Villages Twirlers and Drum Corps and Mystic Jewels will perform.
Sweet and Sassy will dance to a montage of eight holiday tunes.
Christmas is a big event for us, said Schnell, of the village of St. James. There are so many songs to choose from. It’s just a fun performance.
Music from each place is conducted by Blue Stone Circle in Spanish Springs, Scooter the DJ in Brownwood, and Rocky and the Rollers in Lake Sumter Landing.
Members of Clown Alley 179 will walk the plazas to make people laugh.
For the second year, the entertainment department will offer tree trails at each festival, during which 10 trees will be festooned with this particular square theme.
Along the trail, expect to find a tent where Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand to offer socially distant greetings.
Residents can have their picture taken at the Scooter the DJ photo booth and drop off donations for the respective charity.
Spanish Springs will have a Victorian Town Show, and Brownwood will have a Gingerbread Town Show.
At Sumter Landing Lake, the Old Carriage Club will display some of its carts and help raise toy donations.
At Santas Sweetery, 5% of sales will go to this charity highlighted in the plaza.
Participants can also participate in a specialty bar offering holiday beers and purchase Christmas gifts from vendors at the holiday market.
It will be more of an experience, Cox said.
Editor Michael Fortuna can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5273 or [email protected]