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Dade City neighborhood celebrates 40th year of holiday stroll

By Michele Miller
MICHELE MILLER | TIMES Michael and Kimberly Higgins string lights on their home in preparation for Church Street Christmas, an annual holiday stroll to be held Dec. 21-23 in the historic Church Avenue neighborhood in Dade City.

DADE CITY ó The cozy, beige-colored home on the corner of Church Avenue and 17th Street is a dream come true for Kimberly Higgins. The Dade City native reflects on this, especially around this time of year, when neighbors deck their homes with lights, wreaths, life-size Christmas cards and garland galore in preparation for three nights of home-spun, holiday revelry.

Come sundown, itís pretty amazing, Higgins said.

"Something magical happens at night. It really transforms into a very magical experience," she said, as her husband, Michael, balanced on a ladder, stringing chords of white lights along the roof.

Itís all part of Church Street Christmas, an annual holiday block party of sorts, now entering itís 40th year. For three nights, residents cordon off the neighborhood and line the road with luminaries to make way for a holiday stroll complete with carolers, dancers and musicians performing on front porches, lawns and in local churches. This yearís event is Dec. 21-23.

"I have many memories of Church Street Christmas over the years," said Higgins, now a mom of three. "I grew up in Dade City, strolling the street. When I went to college, thatís where Iíd catch up with old friends over winter break. Now I get to do it with my own kids, which makes it extra special ó seeing it all again through their eyes."

Three neighborhood churches will open their doors for a rotating schedule of choir performances. A live nativity will be held Thursday evening at the First United Methodist Church, and Santa will be on hand to hear last minute wishes. Among the performers will be the Dade City Symphony, the Pasco High jazz band, St. Ritaís Childrenís Choir and the Rez House dance group.

What you wonít see, however, is vendors pitching their wares.

"You do not have to spend a dime here," said one of the organizers, Pat German, a local realtor who has lived in a 107-year-old home on the street for about 30 years. "This is an escape from all the pressures of that. Itís about embracing the spirit of Christmas and enjoying the time with family and friends. Itís very simplistic ó a gift to the city from the residents and the churches."

No matter the weather, the stroll will go on, Higgins said.

"Itís been cold, hot. Itís rained. But no matter what, we usually have 10,000 to 15,000 people each night," she said. "We just love for people to come by who have never experienced it. Whether you have been doing it as a tradition for all 39 years or this is your first time, weíd love to have you come out and experience the spirit of Christmas."

Contact Michele Miller at [email protected] Follow @MicheleMiller52`