CARROLLWOOD — A winter wonderland comes several weeks early this year when Village Presbyterian Church holds its first Community Christmas Festival on Dec. 7.
Planning started this summer, when members voiced a desire to expand the Carrollwood church's traditional Fall Festival that was for members only and geared mostly to children.
"We wanted to open it up, invite the whole community, make it fun for children and adults, and help people get into the Christmas spirit right at the beginning of December," said Miranda Morrisroe, director of Christian education and outreach at the church.
Inviting the community was an important move, said Morrisroe, because the church sits in a prominent location along S Village Drive and members wanted to share the true meaning of Christmas with neighbors.
The festival will be indoors and outdoors throughout the church's property. In addition to live music and an art show presented by the Carrollwood Community Center, there will be a bounce house, "sleigh" rides, a "snow" play area, a Christmas crafts room for adults, family portraits and a barbecue — all free to the public.
Funding came from church members and an anonymous $1,000 donation.
"When everybody else is asking you for money, we wanted to be the church that didn't," Morrisroe said.
"We could be the event this Christmas where it wasn't about pulling out your wallet but just about having fun with your friends and neighbors."
Members of the Cultural Center look forward to bringing art and music to the festival, said Mary Ann Scialdo, artistic and chorus director.
Several instructors from the center will display art, and musical performances will include selections by the center's full instrument wind and brass band, and three medleys by the chorus.
"Music touches a place in the soul and the heart that nothing else does," Scialdo said. "It fills you up all the way to the top, and for that moment in time everyone listening is part of a different world."
The festival will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. at the church campus, at 13115 S Village Drive.
Festivalgoers are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy that will be donated to Christian Social Services of Land O'Lakes.
For more information, call the church office at 961-4115.
Correspondent Sheryl Kay covers religion news for the St. Petersburg Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (813) 230-8788.