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Largo Central Park holiday display continues to grow

Snowflakes and icicles are meant to set a cooler mood for those strolling the pathways.
Snowflakes and icicles are meant to set a cooler mood for those strolling the pathways.
Published Dec. 4, 2014

LARGO

At first, holiday decorations adorned light poles along major roads around downtown.

As years went on and budgets got thinner, the roadside displays were reduced. However, the lights set up at Largo Central Park continued to get brighter.

It's to a point that from Thanksgiving through New Year's thousands of people come out to look at the more than a million holiday lights in the park. While walking through the park looking at the lights is free, this is the first year donation boxes will be set up to help offset the cost of future displays.

"We're going to keep doing the lights whether or not (people donate)," Mayor Woody Brown said. "If you like the lights and want to donate that would be great."

While the display is set up for weeks, the Largo Holiday Stroll is the official kick off to the season with an official tree lighting ceremony Saturday.

The celebration also includes performances from Tutterow dancers, an owl and hawk show and music by Late Night Brass. The miniature train will be running but is not taking passengers.

That night a toboggan snow slide will be set up, Santa will be there to pose for pictures and areas will be set up for kids to make holiday crafts. A Scout troop will fund raise selling hot chocolate by a campfire. Food trucks will offer other snacks and refreshments.

"People really enjoy it. We're Florida so we don't have snow to get us in the Christmas or holiday spirit. So we've had a nice display of lights in the past," Brown said. "Now until the end of the year there will be a bunch of people in the park enjoying the lights."

The holiday light display is one of the most important things the city does, said Greg Brown, Largo parks superintendent.

He gets calls weeks in advance asking about the display. An estimated 100,000 people come to the park while they are lit. In the last couple of years, crews started getting the lights ready by Thanksgiving.

"We just figured as much work as we have, put it up and enjoy it," Brown said.

This year officials are hoping some of the people who come out chip in.

The cost for set up, maintenance, rentals and taking down the display is about $85,000 Brown said. The city used to rent many of the lights, but over time started buying its own, and using staff to put them up. It still rents some of the larger animated lights and characters.

The decision to put up the donation boxes came after a lot of discussion, Brown said. Sponsors for the displays could be another way to help reduce the city expense for the lights, he said.

"We've talked about all kinds of things in the last few years. … Some of that stuff is going really well and this donation component will help us minimize how much money will come out," Brown said.

Once again the light display is growing. For the first time the southwest corner of the park, near the train tunnel, will be brightened with 20,000 white lights and bright Emperor penguins.

The $10,000 Antarctica themed section fills the otherwise darkened area.

"It gives a white-out cold feeling through the whole park," Brown said.

One question Brown keeps hearing about the new display: Are polar bears there? No, that's the North Pole, he said.

Jared Leone can be reached at jared.leone@gmail.com or @jared_leone