A walk among unique, handmade holiday decorations and tens of thousands of glittering lights, blinking to the beat of holiday music. The chance to sip hot chocolate, take a sleigh ride and make cookies with Mrs. Claus.
When Candy Cane Acres opened at the Hernando County Fairgrounds over Thanksgiving weekend, the crowds came in droves to take part in these holiday activities.
"We had a really good opening night," said Richard Klimas, grounds manager at the fairgrounds. "It was packed. Wall to wall people. We were very surprised."
If you haven't had a chance to make it to the fairgrounds yet, don't worry. The event continues for the next two weekends, offering a variety of family fun to put even Grinch in the Christmas spirit.
Candy Cane Acres features a walk-through display and Christmas village. The display includes nearly 100,000 lights that dance to Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas music, plus a village with numerous decorations, Santa's workshop and Florida-style sleigh rides.
"It really is amazing," Klimas said, "how a half-mile of wires (with lights) transforms into something really beautiful."
He said the sleigh rides are a favorite, where visitors seem to relax and someone always seems ready to sing along, filled with holiday cheer.
Indoors is a parade of trees and a 40-foot-long train layout that "starts in Brooksville and ends in Whoville," Klimas said.
A returning favorite is the redneck Christmas tree.
"We have a lot of creative people who helped make this possible," Klimas said.
Visitors can make Christmas cookies, play games and sit at picnic tables and enjoy refreshments such as apple cider and hot chocolate, while watching the lights and listening to the music. Parents may bring their cameras and take pictures of their children with Santa.
Candy Cane Acres continues from 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 21 at the fairgrounds, 6436 Broad St., Brooksville. Admission is $10 per carload, which includes 10 free tickets, to be used for food, drinks and games; additional tickets are 50 cents each.
Also, a live nativity scene is being planned for the weekend of Dec. 20 and 21. Those interested in volunteering for the event may call the fairgrounds for details at (352) 796-4552.
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Several other holiday events are planned:
• Christmas on Main Street, 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, downtown Brooksville. The event includes vendors and entertainment along Main Street and on the courthouse lawn. Merchants will offer holiday treats and entertainment, and Santa and Mrs. Claus will be at the House of Passage from 5:15 to 6:45 p.m. There will be an art exhibit reception at the City Hall Art Gallery from 5 to 7 p.m. The lighting of the Christmas tree will be at 7 p.m., followed by a variety of entertainment. For information, call (352) 540-3856 or (352) 540-6357.
• The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and A Charlie Brown Christmas, Thursday through Dec. 22 at Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill. In The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, the laughs pile up when a couple struggles to put on a church Christmas pageant with a cast of awful children. Then watch as Charlie Brown and friends discover the true meaning of Christmas. Showtimes are at 8 p.m. Thursday and on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. Sundays. Visit the website at stagewest.net or call the box office at (352) 683-5113.
• Living Nativity, 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and at 2 and 6 p.m. Saturday at the Hernando High School Performing Arts Center, 700 Bell Ave., Brooksville. It's Christmas Eve, and the members of Fairlawn Church of the Good Shepherd find themselves in the town jail, charged with everything from animal cruelty to arson. The comedy, written by Karen Jones, will be presented by the drama department at Hernando High. Admission is $5 at the door; there will be free admission at the Saturday matinee for Hernando County elementary school students wearing their school T-shirts. For information, call (352) 797-7015, ext. 333.
• Angels on High, 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday, Lake House, 1202 Kenlake Ave., Spring Hill. The annual community holiday event includes a lighted angel pathway, holiday music, entertainment by community groups and performers, and Santa and Mrs. Claus. Vendors will be on hand. Concessions available. Presented by the Spring Hill Community Association. Free admission; parking is $1. For information, call (352) 666-4746 or visit springhilllakehouse.com.
• Brooksville Christmas Parade, 10 a.m. Saturday, through downtown Brooksville. This year's parade theme is "We Are the World ... We Are the Children." The parade route begins at Oakwood Drive, near Hernando High School, then proceeds down Howell Avenue to Main Street, crosses Jefferson and Broad streets, then heads north on Broad to Bell Avenue, ending at Jefferson and Bell. For information, call (352) 799-6573.
• Yuletide Holiday Cruise, 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, 4150 S Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa. Enjoy an evening cruise along Pepper Creek, followed by a short walk to the garden of the springs, where guests will be entertained by the Homosassa Elementary Chorus and greeted by Santa, Mrs. Claus and their elves. Return transportation by tram will be provided. Tickets are $25, $5 for children ages 5 to 11, and must be purchased in advance at the park office. Call (352) 628-5343 or visit floridastateparks.org/homosassasprings/default.cfm.
• Crews Lake Christmas Train Ride to Santa's North Pole, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and again on Dec. 21 at Crews Lake Wilderness Park, 16739 Crews Lake Drive, off Shady Hills Road, Shady Hills. Enjoy a train ride to Santa's North Pole, visit with Santa, listen to Christmas music with Backyard Production Company performers, and Christmas stories by Jerry Cowling. Bring a camera for pictures with Santa. Admission is $3 per person. For information, call (727) 267-7161.
• Winter Waterland, 7 to 11 p.m. Dec. 20 and 21 at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, 6131 Commercial Way, Weeki Wachee. The annual holiday event will include Christmas shows, a light show, a live nativity scene, a petting zoo and photo opportunities with Santa and his mermaid elves. Admission is $5, $3 for ages 6 to 12 and free for ages 5 and younger. For information, call (352) 592-5656.
• Holidazzzzzle, 7 p.m. Dec. 20 and 21, Springstead Theatre, 3300 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill. Singers and dancers ages 3 to 18 from John Leggio's Center for the Performing Arts will present this holiday spectacular with Broadway-style dances and musical numbers. Tickets are $15, and may be purchased in advance at John Leggio's Center or online at leggioarts.com. For information, call (352) 683-8395.