For 20 years Plant City has come together to kick off the holiday season with the annual Lights of Love event at McCall Park.
Choirs from First Baptist Church of Plant City sing holiday songs and city officials reflect on the importance of the season. Hundreds gather in the park weaving in and out of the large Christmas light displays as they anxiously await the arrival of Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus who flip a switch to illuminate the thousands of Christmas lights throughout downtown.
“For me — and I think many others — this event kicks off the Christmas season,” Mayor Rick Lott said.
The event is always free and this year featured photos with Santa, Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen and the East Hillsborough Art Guild’s Art Show and Sale. Throughout the event Plant City Dolphins Pee Wee Cheerleaders sold Christmas bulb necklaces and headbands and many showed up in their festive apparel.
One of the snazziest dressers was inarguably Lott. He wore a red and green mistletoe suit jacket along with a red and green Christmas tie in honor of the event.
The lights for the tree were sold to local families and businesses in honor or in memory of loved ones. All of the proceeds from the evening went to the South Florida Baptist Hospital Foundation, which uses the funds to go toward the services and programs offered by the hospital.
Karen Kerr, president of South Florida Baptist Hospital, said the event was a “hallmark moment” for Plant City. She said it was hard to find a similar event anywhere nearby and praised Plant City on coming together every year to pull it off.
After Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer officially wrapped up the countdown and lit the decorations everyone in attendance joined together for a rousing chorus of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”