Santa will be really busy in North Pinellas on Saturday, with appearances in three different parades in three different communities. Good thing he doesn't have to make any costume changes! Since the parades are at different times, you make can all three. And all are followed by additional festive activities. Here's a roundup.
The Tarpon Springs Christmas Parade is the first on tap, starting at 10 a.m. Saturday. You'll not only get a glimpse of Santa, but also get to see the Tarpon Springs High School band perform the same routine it did for national television during the broadcast of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
The Tarpon High band was one of 11 U.S. bands chosen to perform in the Macy's parade, and the only one from Florida.
The Tarpon Springs Christmas parade will last about 90 minutes. It starts at the Winn Dixie Plaza on Pinellas Avenue and proceeds north along city streets to Tarpon Avenue, ending at Craig Park.
"What makes this so much fun is that it's a small-town parade," said Sue Thomas, Chamber of Commerce president. "The people who are in it are people you know. The businesses you see, the dance school, the bands, make it a hometown parade. I just love it. The event's fun for everyone."
According to Thomas, the Tarpon band will perform its Macy's number on Tarpon Avenue where the road widens in front of the Chamber of Commerce. When the parade rolls to a stop at Craig Park, the fun doesn't end. It just continues with the Candy Cane Hunt in the park.
The hunt is actually three different hunts organized according to age groups.
While the candy canes themselves are a treat, for an added prize find one of the hidden special canes among the others.
"Hunt is a loose term, because for the littlest children the candy canes are just resting in the grass," Thomas said. "Our rec department does a wonderful job and all the children have a ball."
Last year, more than 500 adults and 400 children participated in the hunt.
Santa and his elves will stay around until 2 p.m. for photographs. Then pull out that holiday shopping list and meander through the historic district of downtown Tarpon Springs for the Christmas Stroll. Merchants will be open until 8 p.m. and offering gift-giving specials.
"During Christmas we're continuing to focus on shop local and shop small businesses, so all our shops will be open after the parade," Thomas said. "We're not antique alley anymore — we have a lot of great gift shops and art galleries. The whole day will be one that's full of fun."
Dunedin's Old-Fashioned Christmas and Holiday Parade starts at 4 p.m., with some new units this year, and followed by the annual Old Fashioned Christmas event.
The grand marshal leading this year's parade is the Dunedin Fire Department, represented by fire Chief Jeffrey Parks. Not to be outshone, Santa will arrive on a fire truck.
"We have some exciting floats this year in the parade," said parade coordinator Alicia Castricone. "This year, we have 91 units in the parade. Last year, we had 85. We have some dignitaries from the state House of Representatives. We'll also have a monster truck."
The parade will start on Beltrees Street and proceed down Douglas Avenue to Skinner Boulevard.
When the parade rolls to a stop in downtown Dunedin, the evening has just begun. The city's Old Fashioned Christmas offers something for everyone.
For the children there are free train rides, snow slides (two this year, located in front of City Hall), old fashioned games like Jacob's ladder and stilt walking, and children's crafts. Adults will particularly enjoy the carriage rides, highland dancing and twinkling lights put up around downtown. Lamp posts adopted and decorated by local businesses will be on display.
"We have carolers who will walk up and down Main Street singing and the merchants get involved, some offering specialty drinks, meals or special discounts," said Jorie Peterson, recreation coach. "It's a feeling of getting ready for the holidays and creating Christmas spirit."
You'll want to stay until at least dusk, when the weather report calls for snow flurries downtown. A snow blower will send tiny flakes floating through the air.
Peterson said the event has grown both in attendance and in area, expanding from Broadway to Louden.
"This is one of my favorite events," Peterson said. "It's free for families, a relaxing event with a lot to do between the children's games, the rides and the entertainment along the street. And it's an amazing experience to see little children's eyes light up when the snow bubbles are falling down. Everyone is having fun and enjoying the festivities."
The 31st Annual Palm Harbor Community Holiday Parade starts at 3 p.m. Saturday, winding along Nebraska Avenue and County Road 1 before ending at Jones Plaza on Florida Avenue.
"It'll be the same great parade it always is,'' said Ted Freidinger, parade coordinator. "The best place to watch in my opinion is Florida and 11th Street.''
The parade is sponsored by the Palm Harbor Rotary Club, the Greater Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce, the Palm Harbor Historical Society and CSA Palm Harbor.
Santa, the parade's grand finale, will be available to visit with children at Jones Plaza after the parade.