BRANDON — Well rested after their long winter's nap, Santa's elves are ready to get to work.
They'll have that perfect opportunity as they prep for what some say could well be the start of a holiday tradition for folks living in, near and even well beyond the Brandon/Valrico community.
It is the Wonderland of Lights of Tampa Bay, a 1-mile drive-through extravaganza of illuminated holiday displays set to music. The show debuts Thanksgiving night (Nov. 24) and runs through Dec. 31 at the Hillsborough County Fairgrounds, 215 Sydney Washer Road in Dover, just north of State Road 60.
Times are 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The event, created by North Pole Productions and sponsored by the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce, offers more than a light show.
Attendees also are invited to park their cars and visit Santa's Village, where they'll be able to go for a ride on the North Pole express train, enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride and even take a short jaunt on a pony.
In addition, there will be games, face painting and photo opportunities with Santa for the children; plus crafters showing and selling their wares, something meant to grab the attention of the adults.
Visitors also are invited to sip on some cinnamon-spiced cider or enjoy a cup of hot chocolate as well as select a variety of other treats from a wide assortment of food vendors.
North Pole Productions President Tammy Peters said her company, founded in 2001, has fashioned similar and highly successful shows in several other cities throughout the country.
"It's a nice wholesome light show and a wonderful time of family fun that people have grown to love," Peters said.
Each holiday season for more than a decade the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce in the town of Branson, Mo., has brought the production to its town, and every year it's a bit different than the shows of the past.
"It's a first-class operation and we average over 20,000 cars every year," said Ross Summers, president and CEO of Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Christine Michaels, the Brandon chamber executive director, met Peters at a trade show many years ago and has seen the production in a city where she once lived. She's thrilled the event is coming to the Brandon community.
"The free-standing displays have about 2 million lights and it's very striking when you drive through," she said.
Hillsborough County Fair Manager Tom Umiker made the initial contact with Peters about hosting the event. In seeking the Brandon chamber's sponsorship, it was pure coincidence he learned Peters and Michaels are longtime acquaintances.
"It's a small world and because of that this whole thing has come together," he said.
Advance tickets are available at brandonchamber.com or they may be purchased on site.
The price for vehicles with up to eight passengers is $20; $35 for a season's pass for said vehicles; $35 for coaches, limos and vans seating nine to 24 people; and $75 for motor coaches holding 25 to 50 people.
On Monday evening, seniors 60 and older will receive a $3 discount, and the cost of vans carrying residents from assisted living centers will be reduced by $5.
Tuesday and Wednesday evenings are military and first responder appreciation nights. With proper IDs to show, people who fall into either category will receive $3 off the ticket price.
"It's very economical considering you can stay at your leisure and enjoy everything there is to offer," Umiker said. "There is something for everyone in the family to enjoy."
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Brandon chamber and the county fairgrounds. For more information, visit nppshows.com or call (813) 689-1221.
Contact Joyce McKenzie at [email protected]