A winter wonderland full of fun coming this holiday season
Santa’s sleigh is sure to make a month-long pit stop in Plant City with the return of Christmas Lane.
Now in its 40th year, the holiday event will once again be held at the Charlie Grimes Family Agricultural Center on the Florida Strawberry Festival grounds, 2508 W. Oak Ave., Plant City.
Although it took a hiatus in 2020, this year it’s back and will be better than ever.
Within three buildings, there will be unlimited access to bumper cars, a merry-go-round and other rides.
And as Christmas songs are played in the background, visitors can enjoy food at concession stands and retail shops offering crafts.
Surrounding the walkways will be imitation snow, ornaments, props, lights, and various homes – some with holiday mice just outdoors. One new installment will be a castle with a balcony for photo shoots.
And the traditional nativity scene will be just opposite of a sleigh where kids can find Mr. and Mrs. Clause.
Lane Wetherington, founder and host, said that the amenities are nostalgic as he’s reliving his childhood.
Of all the 200 decorated Christmas trees, one will be 30 feet tall and the other 28 feet tall, both nearly touching the ceiling.
Outside will have a carnival, a train ride, and a maze with each trail guided by lights.
Christmas Lane began 40 years ago and was originally held at the Dover home of Wetherington’s parents.
It started off as just a display of decorations so those passing by could enjoy them. Then they opened their property so that visitors could get a closer glimpse of the lights and props.
Its popularity grew to the point where there were up to 200 cars on 50 acres of land.
“Literally we just outgrew it,” said Wetherington. “We would have traffic backed up for hours down the road and we had to do something.”
With the expanding popularity of the event, he decided to move it to a more spacious and accommodating location – the Charlie Grimes Family Agricultural Center at the Florida Strawberry Festival grounds.
Wetherington took advantage of the larger area and incorporated new props to his collection.
It takes him, his family, and staff a month to set up everything inside the three buildings.
However, he says it’s well worth it – especially when it brings smiles to children who are disadvantaged.
The One More Child organization has been partnering with Christmas Lane for over a decade.
Established in 1904, it has numerous campuses throughout Florida, It caters to an estimated 1,500 children, some of which are in foster care. It also houses single mothers with kids who are under financial constraints.
Erica Hall is the director of Major Gifts for the organization’s Lakeland campus, and she has seen firsthand, the impact that the holiday function has on the kids.
“They invite the children and families in our care to come out and have a free night to just enjoy being children,” she said. “The foster kids and families that attend Christmas Lane can range from 40 to 50 visitors.“ Christmas Lane makes financial contributions to assist One More Child. At the holiday event, there is a wishing pond where people can throw their coins into. What’s collected goes toward the organization. And Lane himself, supplies One More Child with decorations so its campus can have a Christmas feel to it.
“A lot of the children that come into our care may not of had a positive Christmas experience before,” said Hall. “It’s such a warm memory and provides them with an opportunity to enjoy the holidays just like everyone else. There’s nothing quite like seeing the look on a child’s face when they hop on Santa’s lap, or when the kids walk in and see just the elaborate Christmas display.”
Although Lane has turned his life-long dream into a reality, he too has done the same for many children.
The event will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. each night from Nov. 26 to Nov. 28.; Dec. 2 to Dec. 5; Dec. 9 to Dec. 12; Dec. 16 to Dec. 24.
Tickets will be $8 for those age 13 and older; $5 for ages 4 to 12; and free for age 3 and under. Tickets will be good for only one night.