Along with a variety of entertainment each night, Santa Claus will be on hand to visit with kids through Dec. 23.
More than 60,000 visitors came through the Holiday Lights in the Gardens last year, with donations totaling about $170,000, according to Terry Berube, the director of the Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation. Although it was Pinellas County that began the annual light display in 2002, since 2008 the foundation has been in charge, with more than 400 volunteers staffing it over the 30-day period.
"Holiday Lights is the biggest fundraiser of the year, and whatever money we make, we put back into the gardens,'' said Berube, who added that she also hopes first-time visitors return after the holidays. "Our plan is to not only bring people into the Botanical Gardens to enjoy the holiday lights but also to introduce people to our gardens for the first time. I do think more people need to know that the (Florida Botanical Gardens) is here.''
Tim Brady, a computer consultant who grew up in Largo, and his two children, Tyler, 6 and Renee, 11, are proof that Berube's plan is working.
On Monday, the father and kids walked along the children's trail. As they took a break to sip from their water bottles, Brady asked Tyler to show off his new reading skills by reading a sign for children at the tree station.
"Okay, I'll read fast," Tyler said. "Trees do many jobs.''
And with that, he was gone, sprinting around the bend toward the butterfly garden.
"Well, that's why we are here. He learns a little. He runs a little,'' Brady said. "The first time we came was for the Christmas lights, but now we come here for them to get out. It's a good place for the kids.''
Contact Piper Castillo at [email protected] Follow @Florida_PBJC.