Hanukkah symbols join Christmas ones in a park
By JON WILSON, Times Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG -- Perhaps for the first time, symbols of Hanukkah are part of the holiday decorations on the downtown waterfront.
A Star of David, a menorah and a dreidel, visible from Beach Drive, stand in south Straub Park near the Yacht Club. They join the Christian nativity scene, Santa Claus and lots of Christmas lights.
A benefactor whose name has not been made public because he wishes to remain anonymous contributed the seasonal Jewish motif, said City Council member Richard Kriseman.
The displays do not violate church-and-state tenets, said Lee Metzger, leisure services administrator.
"We've run it through (the legal department) any number of times," Metzger said.
As long as they are donated instead of purchased with public money, the holiday symbols can be placed in the park, he said.
The nativity scene has been a tradition for years. James E. "Doc" Webb donated it, Metzger said. Webb was the entrepreneur who built Webb's City, a storied cut-rate shopping center open downtown from 1925 until 1978.
"I have often said that if other (holiday groups) wanted to have a symbol, and somebody wanted to donate, we would be willing to entertain it," Metzger said.
Kriseman, who is Jewish, said numerous residents had asked him how Hanukkah decorations could be added to the scene. Kriseman said he looked into it soon after the last holiday season and received support from Mayor Rick Baker, who is a Baptist.
This year's Christmas tree lighting in Straub Park on Nov. 29 was also the first day of Hanukkah. A menorah was placed beside the tree. When Baker pulled a switch, Kriseman screwed in a bulb. The tree and the menorah blazed to life at the same time.
The Denis Sullivan, a 138-foot Great Lakes schooner replica from Milwaukee, Wis., is visiting here until Dec. 26, but the ship's owners would like to make a regular stop.
"One of the things we're really anxious to do, we would love to establish a very tight link with the school systems in Tampa-St. Petersburg. We would like to make Tampa-St. Pete a winter port of call," said Rolf Johnson, director of the ship's exhibits and public programs.
The Denis Sullivan, whose mission is teaching about the earth's water resources, arrived Wednesday and sailed past the Pier a few times before heading into the Port of St. Petersburg.
The boat tied up at the Pier on Friday and will be available for short sailing excursions until Dec. 23. Call 421-6305 for information.
Coffee Pot Boulevard is open to traffic, and the sidewalks are clear.
Finished at last is the city's huge, 16-month sea wall project, a $5.35-million job that included more than a mile of Coffee Pot Bayou sections and a few others around North Shore Park and the Vinoy Basin.
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