Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Celebration Snow Returns

Yesterday night the yearly snowfall returned to Celebration. Call me corny, but I love the blizzard of soapy snowflakes that descends hourly on Market Street between Black Friday and New Years Eve. We've been attending it since 2002, when we were in the process of purchasing our home.

For the first two years we attended, it was run by The Celebration Company (i.e. Disney). In 2004, it was taken over by Lexin, the company that purchased the downtown area. Fortunately, Lexin didn't change it too much, although I prefer Disney's taste in music. A loop of Christmas music plays on tinny speakers as the snowfall pours down at the top of each hour from 6 to 9 p.m. It only lasts a few minutes, but the kids get a real big kick out of it. For the "big kids" who have moved to Florida from the North, it provides a snow-fix without the unpleasant side effects, like shovels and frostbite.

Since yesterday was the first day of "Now Snowing Nightly" (the official moniker), it was kicked off with a big hoopla prior to the 6 p.m. snowfall. The 2005 community service award winners were going to light the laefront Christmas tree; since one of them is a friend of ours, we decided to get downtown early enough to see him.

Hubby and I figured that traffic might be fierce, so we walked from East Village to downtown. It only takes about 20 minutes if you take the boardwalk, and it's not much farther even if you hoof it on the streets. It was a pleasant night for walking, although I donned blue jeans in case the air turned chilly (for a Floridian, "cool" is anything below the low 70s).

Sure enough, when we got downtown, it was fast becoming a mob scene. There were cars and people everywhere, eager to kick off the holiday season with carolers, snow, and the arrival of Santa Claus. We managed to jockey into position near the tree, where we met some friends. We chatted for a while as singers carolled, and then I spotted our other friends waiting near the stage for the tree lighting cue. I slipped over to wait was the clock neared the appointed hour. After the tree lighting, Santa was scheduled to arrive in style in a horse-drawn carriage (the south is too hot for reindeer, as anyone who has ever watched "The Year Without A Santa Claus" knows...they must wear those personal cooling devices from "Sharper Image" when they visit on Christmas Eve).

The three award winners were clutching a giant plunger that would ostensibly light the tree. The singers finished early, so the master of ceremonies killed time until the precise moment. Then, he frantically started the countdown, and the crowd breathlessly shouted: "FIVE! FOUR! THREE! TWO! ONE!" The plunger was depressed...and nothing. But not to worry...a moment or two later the tree lit up in a blaze of white lights (well, mostly...a couple of patches were noticeably dark, so some of the strings must have been out).

I'm guessing the plunger was a diversion, with the tree set to light up at the appointed time without any human intervention. But it looks a lot more cool to have a big prop, and the timing was pretty good...only a few seconds off.

In the aftermath, buried in the crowd, I missed Santa's arrival. The pre-recorded music had kicked in, and the snowmakers were pumping out soapy snowflakes full force. Celebration's other holiday standards (carriage rides and the NEV train) were on hand, and the crowd had swelled into a wall of people crowding the sidewalks of Market Street.

We decided to go out to dinner; since the restaurants downtown looked packed, we opted for Joe's Crab Shack at Water Tower Place. In theory, we have a card that entitles us to immediate seating. In practice, since we were with a group of people, bringing our party size to eight, we had to wait half an hour for one of the two big inside tables to open up (there is a large table outside, too, but the plethora of smokers in the outside dining area made it an unappealing option).

As we headed for our friends' van (since we had walked downtown, we were at their mercy for transportation to WTP), we paused at the end of Market Street to watch a group of children making snow angels in the soap suds. It was so neat to see the delight on their faces and hear their excited giggles. Forget the 5 a.m. sales and the mob scenes at the was in that moment, among the happy squeals of the wee ones, that I knew the holiday season had officially begun.

Click here for my Holiday Survival Guide and a guide to Keeping New Years Resolutions on my business website.

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