If nothing else, the nippy weather this week may have begun to put people in the holiday spirit. If so, the timing couldn't be more perfect, as spectators of all ages prepare to converge on downtown Brooksville for Saturday morning's 36th annual Brooksville Christmas Parade.
The event, hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Brooksville, will feature more than 100 entries, including high school marching bands, law enforcement, Smokey Bear, Shriners on motorized vehicles, horses, Santa and numerous others.
The theme is "A Country Christmas," and the grand marshal will be longtime Brooksville businessman Tommy Bronson.
The parade will start at 10 a.m. along Varsity Drive on the north side of Brooksville and continue on Oakwood Drive to Howell Avenue, then travel south down Howell and S Main Street before turning east onto Broad Street and ending at Bell Avenue. The parade is expected to last until about 12:30 p.m.
"Everything has been pulling together well," said event chairwoman Diana Koontz. "We have 101 entrants, which is not quite as much as we had last year, but there are always last-minute entries."
A special addition to this year's parade will be 11-year-old Madison Schmidt, who has been selected this year's Hometown Hero.
Madison, a sixth-grader at West Hernando Middle School, collects pull tabs from beverage cans for Shriners Hospitals for Children. Her goal is to collect 6 million tabs, which may be worth $3,000 to $4,000.
"That is one of the main reasons we picked her," Koontz said. "She puts herself out there to help the Shriners."
Along with celebrating the holidays, the parade serves as a fundraiser for the local Kiwanis. Funds raised from parade entry fees, as well as sales in the parade booklet, go toward children's events in the community.
Koontz said sales for this year's parade booklet are higher than last year, "which is great, because all that money goes back to the children in the community."
The parade is the first of several holiday events this weekend throughout Hernando County.
Some are longtime staples, such as the Christmas Candlelight Tours at the Hernando Heritage Museum in Brooksville and the lighted boat parades in Weeki Wachee and Hernando Beach.
New this year is the local premiere of What the Dickens Happened to Scrooge, a play written by local author and playwright Jerry Cowling, which will be performed at Stage West Community Playhouse today through Sunday.
It stars Cowling in the lead role of Ebenezer Scrooge. After the folks affected by Scrooge's miserly ways hatch a plan to get him intoxicated, they act out his life before him and force him to become the "most generous soul in London."
"It's amazing to see such a mild-mannered person as Jerry transform into Scrooge," said the show's director, Myndee Fleury Washington, who is also executive director of the Hernando County Fine Arts Council. "He does such a great job."
Tonight's show is part of the fine arts council's Winter Gala at Stage West. A wine and hors d'oeuvres reception and silent auction start at 6:30 p.m.; showtime is at 8. Tickets are $10.
Additional performances of the play will be at 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday; tickets to those shows are also $10 but do not include a reception or auction. Call the fine arts council at (352) 754-4788 or the Stage West box office at (352) 683-5113.
Watery wonderland part of holiday fun
Here are some other holiday activities taking place around the county this weekend:
• Hernando Hills Hi-Lites Christmas Show, 7 p.m. today, Mariner United Methodist Church, 7079 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill. The D'Lites Quartet and special guests will be featured. St. Nick will pass out goodies, and there will be door prizes and a raffle to win a gift basket. After the show, cookies and Christmas treats will be served, and Santa will be available for pictures. Tickets are $12 for adults, $6 for students and free for children 3 and younger. Call (352) 686-4122.
• Holiday Lights at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, 6 to 10 p.m. today and Saturday, 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee. Stroll through the park and enjoy the holiday sights and sounds. Santa will make an appearance for photo opportunities. Admission is $2. The Winter Waterland Holiday Festival is from 7 to 10 p.m. Dec. 17 and 18 at the park. The event will include holiday-themed mermaid performances, John Leggio's Christmas Spectacular, the Grinchmas show, arts and crafts, and Santa. Tickets are $4 for adults and $2 for children ages 6 to 12. Call (352) 592-5656.
• Hernando Heritage Museum Christmas Candlelight Tour, 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Hernando Heritage Museum, 601 Museum Court, Brooksville. The museum is in the May-Stringer House, a 1854 Victorian home that will be decorated with a lighted tree, ornaments and numerous candles. There will be carolers. Punch will be served. Admission is $5 at the door. Call (352) 799-0129.
• Hernando Beach Yacht Club Christmas Boat Parade, 6 p.m. Saturday, Hernando Beach Yacht Club, 4163 Shoal Line Blvd., Hernando Beach. Prizes will be awarded for best original theme, best lighted and funniest boats. There will be hot dogs, chili, drinks and chips available at the club. Those wishing to enter boats in the parade must register between 3 and 6 p.m. today. The entry fee is a donation of an unwrapped toy. There is no cost for spectators. Call (352) 200-7822.
• 25th annual Weeki Wachee River Lighted Christmas Boat Parade, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Rogers Park, 7244 Shoal Line Blvd., Weeki Wachee. The parade, open to all boat owners, is sponsored by Weeki Wachee Marina. The entry fee is an unwrapped toy. There is no cost for spectators. All toys will be donated to the Dawn Center. Call (352) 596-2852.
• Nature Coast English Car Club and Suncoast Classic MG Club present Toys for Tots Car Show, 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Duke's American Grill, 1320 Commercial Way, Spring Hill. Top 50 trophies awarded. Entry is a donation of a toy with a value of at least $10 (no stuffed animals). All proceeds benefit the Hernando County Toys for Tots program. There is no cost for spectators. Call (352) 688-0316.
• Brooksville Woman's Club presents the 10th annual Historic Tour of Homes, Sunday, downtown Brooksville. Tour times are available at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. Three homes will be shown, along with the clubhouse, where hot apple cider and homemade cookies will be served. Tickets are $12. Call Yvonne Malone at (352) 796-6026 or (352) 848-7988.
• Hernando Jazz Society's "Holiday Celebration," 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Wellington Clubhouse, 400 Wexford Blvd., Spring Hill. Dance to seasonal music such as Winter Wonderland, Let It Snow and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. A cash bar and light menu will be available. Admission is free for society members, $9 for nonmembers. Call Bill McLoughlin at (352) 799-9690.