By Sharon Kennedy Wynne
Times Staff Writer
It's going to be one of those "only in Florida" kinds of weekends with loads of snow churned out for suntanned kids in shirtsleeves to play in.
Grab some mittens because Tampa, St. Petersburg, Oldsmar and Clearwater's downtown districts all plan to throw out a blanket of snow.
The "Miracle on Cleveland Street" has the downtown Clearwater district dressed in white on Friday, with 40 tons of snow, two giant snow slides (with toboggans) and a special snow-play area for smaller children.
That snow is created by elves who bring in a giant snowmaking machine just hours before the kids show up, said Tony Lenning, a recreation specialist for the city. Sometimes they use bags of ice, sometimes it's huge slabs of ice cubes, but the technology is basically a wood chipper for cold stuff, he said.
After a few hours of cranking out snowflakes, the blanket of snow stays in place a good five or six hours on even the warmest Florida days, Lenning said.
"We'll have kids in shorts and T-shirts running around playing in the snow," Lenning said.
Yeah, cozy up to that image, Buffalo.
Clearwater's party will also have actors playing Dickens' characters, live music and more on Friday in the 500 block of Cleveland Street from 5 to 10 p.m. Free.
In Oldsmar, the forecast calls for snow at its Christmas Wonderland on Friday night. Visitors are invited to play in the white stuff and slide or sled down slopes of ice from 6 to 9 p.m. at R.E. Olds Park, 107 Shore Drive W. Other activities include pony rides, bouncing on inflatables and getting your photo taken with Santa Claus. Admission and parking will be free.
On Saturday, St. Petersburg holds its annual holiday parade downtown at 10 a.m. followed by Snowfest at 11 a.m. in North Straub Park. Go on a toboggan slide, a climbing wall, skate on Glice and more. A wristband costs $5 to play on everything.
In Ybor City, Santa Fest starts at 11 a.m. Saturday with snow and snow slides and continuous entertainment on three stages at Centennial Park, 1800 E Eighth Ave. The Holiday Parade follows at 4 p.m. Free.