Tradition, future link up for holiday stroll

By RITA FARLOW, Times Staff Writer
Published November 28, 2007

If you see Mayor Pat Gerard riding down West Bay Drive in a rocket ship Saturday, don't be alarmed. She's got to get to the tree lighting on time. Gerard, city commissioners and others will be riding in cosmic style during this year's holiday parade, in a 10-seat rocket ship car.

Joining them - on floats, in cars and by foot -will be clowns, dancers and a host of drummers, plus representatives from local nonprofit agencies and businesses.

And maybe one fat guy who looks a bit jolly.

They'll unload at Largo Central Park for the 13th annual Holiday Stroll Around the World and ceremonial tree lighting.

Organizers expect about 6,000 people at the events, which highlight holiday experiences in other countries, said special events coordinator Charla Lucas.

The "around the world" theme started three years ago. "We wanted to start incorporating different traditions for different cultures," Lucas said.

For the first time this year, some of more than 250,000 lights that illuminate the park will be energy-efficient LED lights.

Also new is the schedule. In past years, the stroll was held on two consecutive nights, for two hours each night. This year, it will all be on one night.

Combining the parade, stroll and tree lighting should make for a festive atmosphere with something to offer everyone, Lucas said.

But drivers should keep in mind that West Bay Drive will be closed between Sixth Avenue Central Park Drive from a little before 4 p.m. until all the parade traffic has passed through, Lucas said.

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or 727 445-4162.

Fast facts

Holiday Parade and Stroll

Starts at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Pinellas County School Board parking lot, 301 Fourth St. SW. Goes north on Sixth Street SW, east on West Bay Drive, across Seminole Boulevard/Missouri Avenue, and south on Central Park Drive.

The Holiday Stroll Around the World is 6-10 p.m. at the park, 101 Central Park Drive. The tree-lighting is at 7:30 p.m. On-site parking is $5; free shuttle service and free parking at the Pinellas County School Board and Largo High School, 410 Missouri Avenue. Pets, coolers and alcohol are prohibited.

Both events are free to the public.