When it comes to sledding down a snow-covered knoll, it's an uphill battle in sunny Florida, but miracles do happen. Today, Oldsmar and downtown Clearwater make dreams of a white Christmas come true with some mock mountains, tons of Southern-style "snow," and lots of entertainment. So bundle up and head for the hills.
The fourth-annual Miracle on Cleveland Street returns this year with 12 heaping tons of snow, two giant toboggan slides, a tree-lighting ceremony, the Tampa Bay Rays Street Team and a Yuletide visit from Mr. Kristopher Kringle.
Admission is free.
"This has been the most popular Blast Friday event," said Eric Blankenship, the newly minted marketing director for Ruth Eckerd Hall and Capitol Theatre, now producing Blast Friday. "It's been growing exponentially each year; we're expecting 10,000 or more people."
The first year had one slide and drew an estimated 2,500 chill seekers.
The snow comes in a roundabout way from the North Pole via Gainesville Ice, said Blankenship.
Casanova's Blast Friday, named for the new restaurant downtown, takes place this evening between 5:30 and 10 p.m. in the 600 block of Cleveland Street. Restaurants and businesses will be open.
Two choirs — Clearwater Academy Children's Choir and the Bella Voce Girls' Choir of the Marcia P. Hoffman Performing Arts Institute — will perform from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
A tree-lighting ceremony is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., with Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard officiating. Following that, winners of the annual holiday wreath decorating competition will be announced. (Contestants should drop off their contest entries at Station Square Park, 612 Cleveland St., today from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.)
At 8 p.m. the Alter Eagles, "the definitive Eagles tribute band," headlines.
Little ones can have their photos taken with Santa as they share their Christmas desires. Vendors will be on hand; food, wine, beer and non-alcoholic beverages will be on sale.
Then, as the miracle ends, the vacation begins. Enjoy a 10 p.m. showing of the cult classic, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, at the nearby Capitol Theatre, 405 Cleveland St. Tickets are $5 and available at the door, through the Ruth Eckerd Hall box office at (727) 791-7400, or online at www.atthecap.com.
"We're excited to be a part of this (Blast Friday event)," said Blankenship. "It's a great way for people to get into the holiday spirit."
Never seen flying saucers? Then you've not been to Oldsmar's annual Christmas Wonderland event.
Each year, R.E. Olds Park on the Oldsmar waterfront is taken over by small but intelligent life forms that giggle and scream as they careen down an icy, cold slope atop large round discs, or "saucer sleds," as they are called.
The big chill is produced by Alpine Ice in Tampa.
"I've found that the parents are just as thrilled as the kids," said Holly LiBaire, the city's communications administrator.
"It's a prize to see the look of merriment as they sled down with their children."
Christmas Wonderland takes place tonight from 6 to 9 p.m.
At the event, the little ones can also ride ponies ($2) and bounce on inflatables.
Admission and parking are free. Bring blankets and chairs — a pair of mittens too. And don't forget the smiles. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be ready and waiting to hear those Christmas wishes; optional photos are available for $3 apiece.
Entertainment includes a youth dance performance on stage as well as live holiday music by Bayside Community Church's Holiday Jazz Band.
A variety of food and drinks will be for sale.