DUNEDIN — No one could create an image of a snow-dusted Victorian village quite like author Charles Dickens, but in Dunedin they're having one dickens of a good time trying.
The city's annual Old Fashioned Christmas and Holiday Parade returns to downtown Dunedin between 4 and 9 p.m. Saturday with snow, decorated lampposts, seasonal music, free carriage rides, street entertainers and plenty of holiday cheer.
All restaurants and shops will be open too.
"This is one of those feel-good events where you'll see the whole family gathered together — from the kids to the grandparents," said Mathew Eberius, a recreation leader in the city's Parks and Recreation Department. "Lots of things are free, many of the merchants will offer deals and there will be entertainment on every street corner."
The event kicks off at 4 p.m. with a 95-unit street parade; the theme is Winter Holidays around the World. It begins on Douglas Avenue at Beltrees Street and proceeds north on Douglas past Pioneer Park to Monroe Street.
Look for festive floats, an antique fire truck, marching and piping bands, entertainers and performing groups. Dignitaries include Mr. and Mrs. Delightful Dunedin, Dunedin's Orange Queen, the City Commission (aboard the Jolley Trolley), the Grinch and, of course, Santa arriving in a horse-drawn carriage.
The parade leader will be Dunedin High School, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Bring a new toy for donation; the Marine Corps will be collecting them during the procession.
After the parade, stick around for more holiday glee.
"This year's big draw is a band called Late Night Brass, a nationally known professional brass band from the Tampa Bay area," Eberius said. They take the main stage in Pioneer Park at 7 p.m. and play until the event ends at 9 p.m. Soloist Deanne Cheyne will open for the act beginning at 6:15 p.m.
Street entertainers will include magicians, a mime, a juggling stilt walker, a soloist and strolling carolers. Dixie Blue, a bluegrass duo from Spring Hill, will perform in front of the Dunedin Historical Museum. A Salvation Army brass band will play on Broadway at 7 p.m.
Free carriage rides — each about 10 to 15 minutes long, accommodating about a dozen people per unit — will be offered during the event. Children can take a trip on a miniature train set up in the Ocean Optics parking lot across from Pioneer Park.
Bring your camera. Store merchants and organizations have decorated with a variety of inspirational seasonal decor from pink flamingos to flying elves and even a garland-wrapped bike.
Beginning at dusk, the city will let it snow as machines blow the white stuff over Main Street at the Pinellas Trail.
"The snow is made from a nontoxic water-based substance that looks like snow," Eberius said. It doesn't accumulate on the street but looks very pretty falling and glistening in the air, he said.
"It'll be just like walking through an old fashioned Dickens-style Christmas village," he said.
Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org