Sunday, September 23, 2018
Events

Ferris wheel adds new view to Holiday Lights in Largo Central Park

LARGO

Sharon Wilson gazed at the cetacean in front of her, a fountain of lights sprouting from its blowhole, and proclaimed "It's unique."

She liked the fact that the silken image of a 100-foot blue whale was life-size.

Her granddaughter Sophie Bault, 6, wondered how something so big could fit into the ocean and still leave room for the fish.

The fabric and steel installation of the krill-devouring whale is the latest addition to Largo Central Park's annual Holiday Light Stroll, a merry and bright display of more than 2 million lights featuring a 30-foot music- and light-synchronized Christmas tree.

Parks superintendent Greg Brown has been dreaming of a blue whale for a while now. He said it's a natural addition to the Antarctica section of the light show. The monster whale was built by city staffers Tom Gow and Ben Troina and painted by local artist Tanya Pistillo.

Other new attractions Brown has brought into the park this year are a Ferris wheel and a carousel.

"You get to see the lights from a whole new perspective, which is really cool," Brown said about the seven-story ride that provides guests with a bird's-eye view of the park.

Tickets for the rides are $5, or five tickets for $20.

Proceeds from ticket sales benefit the Central Park Performing Arts Center, formerly known as the Largo Cultural Center.

The Holiday Light Stroll is free and runs through Jan. 2.

On Saturday, a special event called Let it Snow takes place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Late Night Brass, a high-energy horn-driven band, will provide music. Santa is planning a visit and shoppers can pick up gifts at a craft fair. A snow play area with a slide ride will be offered for $5 admission.

• • •

By all accounts, the 70-acre Largo Central Park is one of the city's most alluring assets with its well-equipped playground, tiny train, fountains and bronze statuary, but it's never prettier than when the sun sets and the illuminated show begins.

The park's abundant trees are laced with strands of vivid LED lights in just about every color. New this year are the purple-lit trees that surround the children's Peace Circle statuary.

Festive displays of trains, carolers, snowmen, reindeer, bears and soldiers abound. Animated icicles drip from trees.

Briella McKnight, 5, said her favorite part was seeing the giant snowflakes hanging from tree branches.

"The time that must have gone into this," mused her father, Parker McKnight of Clearwater.

It took a crew of 10 about six weeks to install the lights, said Brown. Most of the work was done by state inmates.

More than $70,000 was budgeted for electricity, new installations and repairs.

Red collection boxes for donations are posted at the main entrances. Contributions were more than $5,000 last year, and were rolled back into the light show.

• • •

A campfire and concession offering popcorn and s'mores kits is near the Ferris wheel. The endeavor is a fundraiser for Boy Scout Troop 135 of Clearwater. On Fridays and Saturdays they sell hot dogs and hamburgers.

Scout Connor Martin, 12, was acting as fire marshal on a recent evening to "make sure the campfire doesn't get out of control."

Under his watchful eye, Emilee Fox, 12, roasted gooey marshmallow treats with her family.

"It's fun to put together the s'mores and eat them as a little snack," she said.

   
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