By MARY THURWACHTER
Palms West Monthly
Posted Dec. 5, 2018
Think you need to travel up north to some magical, snow-covered locale to experience a merry holiday season? Well, think again.
Holiday traditions are alive and well in our own backyard. From a 700-ton holiday tree made entirely of sand named Sandi (naturally) to an always rockin’ holiday performance by our very own Vanilla Ice, we have holiday traditions that we can truly call our own.
And what would the holidays be without the obligatory parades, concerts, tree trimmings and photo-ops with Santa?
Yes, the magic is right here, and Jorge Pesquera couldn’t be happier. He’s the president and CEO of Discover The Palm Beaches, the tourism marketing organization for Palm Beach County.
“Our community loves to celebrate the holidays, and we hope everyone takes time to get out and enjoy all there is to do during this special time of the year,” he says.
Here’s a few of our favorites to get you in the holiday mood.
Wellington’s Holiday Parade
The Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce and the Village of Wellington know how to put on a parade. After all, this is the 35th year they’ve been at it. The parade, titled “Holiday in Paradise,” takes place Sunday, Dec. 9 starting at 1:30 p.m.
High school bands and floats from area businesses and organizations will travel the parade route starting at the corner of Wellington Trace and Forest Hill Boulevard and ending on Ken Adams Way behind the Wellington Amphitheater.
The day’s fun begins at 10 a.m. at the Wellington Amphitheater, where elementary and middle school choruses and string ensembles will perform throughout the day.
The grand marshal for this year’s parade is Dennis Witkowski, a Palms West Chamber of Commerce founding board member who started the parade 35 years ago. According to Central Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce CEO Mary Lou Bedford, Witkowski was inspired by the parades of his boyhood in Woodbridge, N.J.
“This doesn’t mean he’s retiring,” Bedford says. “We won’t let him do that, but what a very nice way to honor him.”
West Palm Beach’s Holiday in Paradise
West Palm’s seasonal celebration features the return of Sandi, the world’s only 35-foot, 700-ton sand tree.
(Yes, it seems Sandi has put on 100 tons since last year, but let’s not go there.)
Not only does Sandi light up the waterfront all month long, she also lights up Twitter with her unique brand of sassiness. Recent tweets include, “I have brought heaven to earth!” and “What a glorious sight I am to behold!”
Those who follow Sandi’s “off-season travels” know she’s full of surprises. This year, she introduces us to her newest friend, a singing mermaid named Merry.
Sandi, Merry and a cast of supporting characters will be on full display with nightly light shows from the Great Lawn on N. Clematis Street and Flagler Drive through Dec. 31.
Other Holiday in Paradise events include:
• Screen on the Green:Visitors are invited to grab their blankets and head out for a trio of holiday movies. “Kung Fu Panda Holiday,” “Arthur Christmas” and “Fred Claus,” will be shown on the Great Lawn on Friday, Dec. 7 starting at 5:30 p.m.
Santa is scheduled to stop by to say hello, but the best part just might be the “Present Parade,” where children turn themselves into walking presents, complete with wrapping paper and ribbons!
• The Aloha Islanders:This holiday-inspired Polynesian revue takes place Sunday, Dec. 16 from 4-7 p.m. The interactive show features dances from Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa and New Zealand.
For more Holiday in Paradise events in West Palm Beach, including Reindeer Games Trivia Night and Glow FORE it Mini Golf, go online to wpb.org/events.
Royal Palm Beach’s Winterfest
The Village of Royal Palm Beach rings in the holidays with Winterfest on Saturday, Dec. 1 from 1-9 p.m. at Commons Park, 11600 Poinciana Blvd. The fun begins with “Santas on the Run,” a family fun run starting at 7:30 a.m. The best part? The first 500 registrants get to run in Santa suits!
Winterfest will feature amazing hot cocoa and cookies, photos with Santa, food trucks, roving entertainment, rides, a children’s craft station and a snow slide. For a new twist this year, there will also be a gingerbread house competition.
According to Mike Mikolaichik, Royal Palm Beach’s assistant director of Parks and Recreation, Winterfest is truly a community-wide effort.
“We have local schools’ choirs, bands and dance teams that come in to perform,” says Mikolaichik. “That’s always a highlight.”
The best part? “That’s when we light up the 26-foot Christmas tree, the whole park comes to life,” Mikolaichik adds.
What holiday would be complete without a visit to the Winter Wonderland display at Hoffman’s Chocolates on Lake Worth Road in Greenacres?
For nearly three decades, Hoffman’s has delighted visitors with its awe-inspiring display of lights and festive ornaments. This year is no exception, as Hoffman’s Winter Wonderland will feature more than 125,000 LED lights, a giant Christmas tree and, of course, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Be sure to also catch the beautifully lit gazebo, cascading fountains, the Arctic zone and much more. This free event is open daily though Dec. 30, but closed Christmas and Christmas Eve.
Vanilla Ice Block Party
In what seems to be the holiday event of the season in Wellington, rapper Vanilla Ice returns to headline Wellington’s Winterfest at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Friday, Dec. 7 starting at 6 p.m.
It’s being billed as the Vanilla Ice Block Party and Little Smiles Toy Drive, and includes music and dance performances by local talent, lots of food vendors, a Snowglobe photo booth and a VIP food and wine tent.
Attendees are asked to bring a new unwrapped toy for the toy drive. Santa will be there, and don’t miss the special reading of “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” by Wellington Mayor Anne Gerwig.
Society of the Four Arts
Looking to add a little culture to your holiday celebrations? Consider these events at The Society of the Four Arts to get you in the holiday spirit.
• Jazz Musician Aaron Deihl: Aaron Deihl, currently one of the most sought after jazz musicians on the scene, will perform a mix of holiday music and jazz standards on Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $40.
• New York Polyphony:This year’s Four Arts’ holiday concert will feature New York Polyphony, a renowned vocal chamber ensemble. The four-person a cappella group has garnered multiple Grammy nominations. The ensemble will perform traditional carols Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $30.
• “The Nutcracker”:Take advantage of a free high-definition screening of “The Nutcracker” on Sunday, Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. To reserve a seat, go online to fourarts.org/event/the-nutcracker20182. But hurry, seating is limited.
Pictured above: The Palm Beach Central High School Marching Band performs during the 2015 Wellington Holiday Parade held Dec. 13, 2015. Photo by Bob Markey II