Holiday parades, performances and special events light up the Treasure Coast
BY SUSAN BURGESS
It’s traditional. Children on ice skates laughing, a tall tree springing into sparkling colored lights against the dark of the evening, graceful dancers performing The Nutcracker, a parade of lighted boats with Rudolph and Santa aboard cruising softly through the night are all December highlights.
Wait. A traditional boat parade? We can’t be talking about the frozen rivers of the north. So welcome to the holidays on Florida’s Treasure Coast, where hearts are as warm as the weather. Holiday excitement and laughter from the children is the same no matter the locale.
Each of the three counties that make up the Treasure Coast has a boat parade in December where thousands of shoreline spectators can marvel at the ingenuity and creativity of the boat captains and crews. If you see one parade and are hooked, gather up the family and go see another one on a different weekend.
This year the Martin and St. Lucie County boat parades are Dec. 7. Look for the Indian River County boat parade on Dec. 14. Visit the Marine Industries Association of the Treasure Coast’s website for particulars or just look at our own holiday datebook.
Holiday trees that spark memories of Christmases past are everywhere. A whole forest of exquisitely decorated trees is at Riverside Theatre in Vero Beach when the Festival of Trees kicks off on Nov. 22.
“The theme is ‘Winter Wonderful,’” says marketing director Oscar Sales. “This allows designers the opportunity to imagine what their vision would be — winter up north with snow or down south with sand and surf.” Hand-decorated wreaths and unusual gifts are also on tap. The trees are auctioned and the proceeds go to the theater’s education department so children can take classes regardless of ability to pay.
The entire campus is transformed into a winter wonderland so wander around to find Santa’s village, Santa himself and thousands of sparkly lights. While at Riverside, look for some holiday performances, too.
There is something very special about the first time a tree bursts into light to announce the start of the holiday season. Just about every city and many communities have tree-lighting ceremonies or festivals. See the joyous tree lighting during the Festival of Lights at the Port St. Lucie Civic Center, at Royal Palm Pointe in Vero Beach during the boat parade, at Main Street Fort Pierce’s Sights and Sounds on Second (Street) parade and festival in downtown Fort Pierce and at Stuart’s Christmas on Main Street tree-lighting festival.
The Singing Christmas Tree is a very special tree on the Hobe Sound Bible Church campus Dec. 5-8 this year. The program, which draws large crowds, features more than 200 singers, orchestra members and actors producing a Christmas pageant.
The City of Fort Pierce is presenting its “Holiday Lights Spectacular” at Marina Square in downtown Fort Pierce. The music and light show runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Dec. 6 through Jan. 10.
Parades? Of course! Every city has one. Check out the Port St. Lucie Civic Center’s Festival of Lights on Dec. 7 where the kids anxiously await Santa at the end of the parade. Sights and Sounds on Second in downtown Fort Pierce on Sunday, Dec. 6, features a daytime parade with marching bands, dance groups, baton twirlers, horses, creative floats, and the grand finale, Santa. The festival begins at about 10:30 a.m. and families make the most of the holiday spirit on the waterfront. Vero Beach has an awesome parade Dec. 7 on Ocean Drive with floats and Santa’s sleigh fully lighted and dazzling to behold against a night sky. Bring a camera for unforgettable pictures. Hint — a tripod would be a good idea.
The lighted nighttime Stuart parade on East Ocean Boulevard is sponsored by the Visiting Nurse Association and runs from 7 to 9 pm. on Dec. 6. This year the theme is “It’s a Green Christmas,” and there will be prizes for the float that best illustrates the theme and the float with the best illumination. The floats are elaborate and fun.
The botanical gardens on the Treasure Coast are filled with lights and the holiday spirit this year. Volunteers at Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce have been working all year to craft new lighted displays for evening viewing in its awe-inspiring Garden of Lights. There are several new features, too. Look for a French flower market, a waterfall of lights, a meandering blue river — and a few surprises. For an advance look, see their website. Bring the children because this will be something your family will remember for a very long time.
McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach has combined its traditional events “Holidays at McKee” and “Nights of Lights” to create “Holiday Nights of Lights.” The event has been extended, giving families more opportunities to attend. After the garden closes for its normal hours, it re-opens for “Holiday Nights of Lights” from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 11-22 and Dec. 27-29. Members can go on Dec. 10 for an advance peek.
The garden features thousands of holiday lights, whimsical holiday-themed lanterns, Santa and Mrs. Claus, holiday treats from the cafe and, of course, the beloved large-scale model train.
McKeesville is back, too. It’s a miniature village set up inside of the Hall of Giants — including a post office, a bank, a frozen pond and snow-covered streets. A total of 40 fascinating buildings to discover in detail makes for a great display. Look for live entertainment Dec. 19 to 21, including a handbell group.
Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens jumps into the holidays on Dec. 14 with “Fun in the Gardens with Santa” and a “Delights of December” plant and gift sale. Be sure to bring a camera to get photos of your little one with jolly old Santa himself.
Holiday shows at theaters in the three counties provide some great entertainment and diversion from the stress of preparing for the holidays. The historic Lyric Theatre in Stuart is presenting South Florida Dance Company’s A Christmas Carol. Theater executive director Kia Fontaine says the play is inspiring because its lessons can be applied to everyday life. She also urges theater-goers to see the group called Canadian Brass. “There’s something so cool about hearing an all-brass band celebrating the holidays,” she says. And let’s not forget a Treasure Coast favorite — “A Peter White Christmas” will be back this year.
The Nutcracker can take many forms. But one that is unique to the Treasure Coast is The Nutcracker on the Indian River, choreographed by Ballet Vero Beach founding artistic director and CEO Adam Schnell. While keeping to the ballet’s general storyline, he moved the action to the Indian River Lagoon where we see dancing flora and fauna on the shores, including manatees. This year he added Nutcracker for All, an abbreviated version for the needs of differently abled children and their families.
The historic Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce is entering its 14th season after the ribbon was cut to celebrate the end of its restoration. The theater is presenting a “Family Adventure Series,” starting with Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer: The Musical. This musical will enchant everyone who loves the story when familiar characters take the stage, says marketing director Anne Satterlee. “We learn that being different can be a good thing.”
The State Ballet Theatre of Odessa performs The Nutcracker at the Sunrise this holiday season too, and more “Family Adventure Series” productions will take stage later in the season. “It’s a great way for the entire family to enjoy some wonderful entertainment this year,” Satterlee says.
Riverside Theatre in Vero Beach not only has its Festival of Trees and Charlie Brown performances for children, it also offers Holiday Nights on December weekends, the Ugly Sweater Holiday Party and the Kiss 2019 Goodbye Party.
Pineapple Playhouse, the community theatre in south Fort Pierce, is showcasing “Home for the Holidays,” a musical choral review with a selection of festive holiday favorites.
At the Barn Theatre in Stuart, Neil Zirconia is doing a holiday tribute to Neil Diamond.
The Hallstrom Planetarium at the Fort Pierce campus of Indian River State College is again doing its Star of Wonder show on select Friday and Saturday nights. It’s an exciting adventure, especially for those who haven’t seen it before.
Get ready for one of the most festive, entertaining holiday seasons the Treasure Coast has ever seen!