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Guaranteed to get you in the holiday spirit

Special holiday events all over the area will have you dreaming of sugarplums, even if you're not yet in the spirit of the season.

By JENNIFER CONWAY and MARY ELMORE

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 7, 2000


Not yet in the holiday spirit? We have some suggestions:

Ride the Teddy Bear Express into a magical winter wonderland at MOSI with the opening of the new exhibit "Teddy Bears and Trains." Children can board a kid-size train that transports them through a fantasy land of toy soldiers, giant candy canes and lollipops, toy drums and decorated trees. While demonstrations, such as candlemaking, take place on the gingerbread house stage, Santa will be seated on his throne. The Rough Riders will display artifacts pertaining to Teddy Roosevelt, the man for whom the teddy bear is named. Dr. Lynn Rogers, also known as the Bearman for his extensive film work with bears, will exhibit 50 of his bear photographs. Call (813) 987-6300 or check out http://www.mosi.org.

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Although it strays from the conventional holiday organs, bells and choirs, Mannheim Steamroller combines pop, classical and rock with a new age sound. Mannheim Steamroller has been a holiday music favorite for the past two decades. Accompanied by video footage, smoke effects and roving lights, the winter wonderland set sparks the imagination. Look for such favorites as Joy to the World and Deck the Halls, two of the band's most popular pieces. The concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Ice Palace, 401 Channelside Drive. Tickets range from $24.25 to $74.25 and are on sale at Ticketmaster. Call (813) 287-8844.

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Dream of sugar plums and candy canes while traveling through the Eckerd Celebration of Lights on the southwest side of the University of South Florida, Fowler Avenue and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. The 11/2-mile route features huge animated lighted scenes that depict the beauty of a winter wonderland. More than 1-million lights show diving dolphins, swimming sea horses and marching soldiers. With radios tuned to 88.1-FM, passengers can listen to holiday music. The celebration of lights is open every night, rain or shine, including holidays, until Jan. 1. Admission is $10 per vehicle or $1 per passenger traveling by bus. A portion of the proceeds is donated to the Children's Miracle Network. Walking is not permitted. Tickets are available on site or at any Ticketmaster location.

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Watch Clara and a few toy soldiers glide into the Christmas season as the Florida Orchestra and the Stars of the Russian Skate Ice Ballet perform a holiday tradition, The Nutcracker on Ice. Wearing elaborate costumes while completing spirals, lifts and spins, the skaters execute the popular ballet. This year the Florida Orchestra will add its musical touch, amid a forest of live Christmas trees. Special guests will include puppets from Bits 'N Pieces Puppet Theatre; local theater students will perform as characters with Bits 'N Pieces. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 15 and at 2 and 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 16. Tickets cost $35.50, $28.50, $25.50 and $18.50, with half-price tickets for children 12 and younger. The Ice Palace is at 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. For more information, call (813) 286-2403.

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If you can't decide what you want for Christmas this year, the Tampa Bay Gay Men's Chorus may be able to clear things up when it presents "All I Want for Christmas." Under the direction of John-Philip Mallnax, this year's concert will feature traditional and popular music of the season, while introducing a humorous story line. The concert is at 8 p.m. Dec. 16 in Ferguson Hall at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $25, $22 and $16. Call (727) 865-9004 or see http://www.tampabayarts.com.

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If you don't plan to walk in a winter wonderland this year, try walking in a Wild Wonderland at Lowry Park Zoo. Complete with live reindeer and real snow, the seasonal extravaganza is a treat for the whole family. Visit Santa's Castle, a winter workshop secured by toy soldiers and filled with snowmen. Also included are an igloo, elves and snow. There will be plenty of games, lights, carriage rides and zoo animals. Wild Wonderland runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 8-10 and 13-23. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for children ages 3 to 11; children 2 and younger are free. Zoo members receive $1 off. Call (813) 935-8552.

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The 19th annual Victorian Christmas Stroll takes place at Henry B. Plant Museum at the University of Tampa. "Toys, Trees and Tradition" is the theme for the stroll. With a tree in every room of the museum, traditions such as holiday cards, classic stories, poems and carols are brought to life. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Dec. 23. Cost is $7 for adults, $3 for children younger than 12, and $6 for seniors each Monday. Call (813) 254-1891 or check out the Web site at http://www.plantmuseum.com.

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Get into the holiday spirit at Lutz Christmas in the Park at 7 p.m. on Dec. 12 at the historic Lutz Train Depot in Bullard Park in downtown Lutz. Featured entertainment includes choirs from Lutz and Manescalco Elementary schools and the Jazz Band from Buchanan Middle School. Santa arrives by fire truck to greet all the kids, along with the unveiling of Christmas Card Lane 2000. Bring your lawn chair to this free event. For information, call (813) 949-7481.

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Philippine Christmas features lots of food, music, songs, dances, rides, Santa Claus and Christmas trees from 3 p.m. to midnight Dec. 16 at the Philippine Cultural Enrichment Complex at the PhilFest grounds, on Nine Eagles Drive just north of Race Track Road. Tickets are $2 and children 10 and under are free. For information, call (813) 931-8687.

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The Carrollwood Players, 4333 Gunn Highway, presents The Man Who Came to Dinner by George Kaufman and Moss Hart. This entertaining Christmas story features a grouchy radio personality and his self-serving antics. Performances are 8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Dec. 15 and 16, and a Sunday matinee at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students with I.D. and seniors 55 and older. For information, call (813) 265-4000.

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The Jewish Community Center/Jewish Federation is sponsoring a Torch Light Parade to celebrate Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. The parade starts at the Winn-Dixie parking lot on Gunn Highway at Lynn-Turner Road at 5:10 p.m. on Dec. 24. It continues for 1 mile to the JCC campus just east of the Veterans Expressway. Shuttles from the campus to the Winn-Dixie run every 10 minutes, starting at 4:30 p.m. The parade finishes at 6 with a lighting of the menorah. A party, catered by the JCC's Jerusalem Cafe and Deli, follows the parade. Entertainment includes music, dancing, a juggler and an art exhibit. Tickets are $8 at the door for adult JCC members or $6 for members 12 and under; $10 for nonmember adults and $8 for nonmember children. For more information or to RSVP, call the JCC at 264-9000, ext. 218.

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And let us not forget Ybor City. Always in a festive mood, it is even more so this year with the first Lights on Main Street. Ybor historic district homes and shops will sport lights and decorations. The kickoff is Friday. On Dec. 14, you can enjoy Caroling on Main Street, which will begin at Centro Ybor at 6:30 p.m.

- Times staff writer Shannon Breen contributed to this report.

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