Christmas Lane Expands, Moves To Plant City’s Strawberry Festival Expo Hall

By Bonnie Mentel

Christmas Lane will be operating this year from the Strawberry Festival Expo Hall in Plant City. After hosting the display at a private residence for the past several decades, creator Lane Wetherington knew that it was time to move on.

“We decided to move for insurance and liability reasons. We needed to take the stress off of having the event at a private property. We had run out of parking spaces and traffic had become a problem. Every bit of it was a safety factor. For the safety of the people on the road, the people trying to get in, and the residents who were trying to get through traffic, we made a decision with the festival management and committees to take the display to an indoor level, where it’s clean and we’re not fighting the elements,” Wetherington said.

Although festival goers enjoyed visiting Christmas Lane on crisp evenings when the temperatures drop to the 40s and 50s, it wasn’t so nice for the staff who had to work outside for four to five hours each night. The rain was also a problem.

“It’s nice not worrying about the rain. The rain shuts me down. The rain shuts down the parking, but it won’t be affected at the festival,” he said.

It had come to a point that it was either time to shut down Christmas Lane or relocate it. So, thankfully for the community, the decision was made to relocate. In order to offset the cost of relocation, insurance, and the cost of rent, an admission fee will be imposed.

“Yes, we are having to go to the cost of admission now, a really nominal admission that has not been fully set yet. It’s going to be very affordable for families and anyone, really. That will help offset the cost of the transportation of all the displays, and setting up the display at the facility,” Wetherington said.

Attendees will be happy to see that there will still be a lot of the old displays, but there will also be a lot of new additions. A large tent equipped with professional sound and lighting will be set up outside to feature local entertainers.

The website describes the event, “There is a child size train for children under 48 inches tall, that nightly takes more than 600 children through a winter wonderland which includes a tunnel of lights. Santa and Mrs. Claus, along with two of his elves, attend nightly in his sleigh. Children share their wishes and the parents capture many memorable photo opportunities.”

Christmas Lane will be open Friday, November 27 through Sunday, January 3, 2016 from 6-10 p.m. nightly. More information can be found at www.christmaslane.org.