Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic made all community holiday events extremely difficult to host, especially for Center Place Fine Arts & Civic Association in Brandon.

“Center Place’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting has been a part of the Brandon community for many years,” said Center Place’s executive director, Libby Hopkins. “The tree lighting was one of Center Place’s biggest event of the holiday season, and it was attended by the entire community. Last year, we had to limit the attendees to just 50 guests. This was heartbreaking for Center Place and our community.”

With the COVID numbers dropping and vaccination on the rise, Center Place is looking forward to a bigger and better annual Christmas Tree Lighting this year that the entire community can enjoy.

Center Place Executive Board member and local resident Mike Owen has graciously agreed to be the sponsor of this year’s Christmas Tree Lighting event that will take place on Wednesday, December 8 at Center Place.

“I wanted to sponsor this event because the tree lighting at Center Place meant a lot to me growing up in Brandon,” Owen said. “The tree in the lake always signaled to me that Christmas is here. I can remember like yesterday, playing baseball at Brandon Little League and seeing the tree lit up across the street. I want the kids growing up in our community to have the same experience I had, so I’m proud to sponsor this event.”

The Christmas Tree Lighting at Center Place is a free community event, and the center is working with local vendors like ABC Event Planning to help make this year’s event special.

“The tree lighting in the lake is important to our community now more than ever,” Owen said. “Our community just went through a tough year. Our business community was turned upside down because of the pandemic. Now it’s time to get back to normalcy.”

Owen and Hopkins hope this year’s event is attended by the community and brings back many fond memories of Christmas past.

“I hope to have a large turnout from all parts of Hillsborough County,” Owen said. “Center Place is not just a Brandon community center, it’s for all of the residents of our county, and I believe that will be reflected by those who attend. The Christmas tree in the lake at Center Place is just as important to me as the tree in Rockefeller Center. As a matter of fact, it is better, and I will take our community at Christmas over any community in the world.”

The Christmas Tree Lighting at Center Place is a free community event that will take place on December 8 from 6-9 p.m. at Center Place. Free light snacks and refreshments will be available to the first 100 guests.

Center Place is located at 619 Vonderburg Dr., Ste. B in Brandon next to the Brandon Library.

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Libby is a writer for The Osprey Observer/The Christian Voice. She started as an intern in 2009 and upon finishing her internship, she was asked to stay on as a permanent writer for both papers. Libby lives in Brandon with her two rescue dogs, Olive and Bogey.