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Wesley Chapel poised to sparkle for holidays
It will be the first tree lighting for the area.
By LISA BUIE, Times Staff Writer
Published November 14, 2007
WESLEY CHAPEL - Cindy Fleming always looks forward to holiday visits with family in the city of Orange, Calif.
During the first part of December, residents there gather around the plaza for an old-fashioned holiday tree lighting.
Photos on the city's Web site show neighbors standing arm in arm, a smiling children's choir in matching red sweater vests, Santa waving from a float. It's like Whoville, minus the Grinch's breaking and entering.
Contrast that with Fleming's hometown of Wesley Chapel, where next-door neighbors often are strangers and a high school football team's first foray into the playoffs didn't merit a mention on a single business marquee.
A tree lighting would spark community spirit back home, Fleming thought. But there was no good place to have one.
That changed this year, when the county opened a regional park on Boyette Road.
The insurance agent sold the idea of a tree lighting to the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce. They set a date, Dec. 1.
They took Fleming's vision of a small, homespun event and turned it into an extravaganza set to feature Santa, a kids' parade, caroling nonreligious songs in accordance with county rules and giveaways by local nonprofit groups.
However, the initial spirit of Fleming's idea remains: This will not be a typical networking event - no buying, no selling.
In addition, the event will include free hot dogs, chips and sodas, face painting, ornament decorating, stories, and performances by local groups.
"Our vision is of a hushed crowd gathered around the tree, excitement in the air, carolers singing softly in the background and the happy faces of the crowd as the lights are turned on," Fleming wrote in a memo to potential sponsors.
About six months ago, chamber members planted an evergreen in the center of the park.
The tree, now about 6 feet, leans slightly. Fleming compares it to the one in A Charlie Brown Christmas. This year, organizers will bring in a taller tree to decorate.