By Meghan Reyes
The Tampa Bay Festival of Lights & Santa’s Village will open on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 24 and will run till January 1, 2023. Tampa Bay’s Festival of Lights will transport guests into a beautiful winter wonderland with custom light displays and its enchanting Santa’s Village. The festival surrounds guests in over 1 million twinkly lights as they drive 2 miles through a number of various themed light displays.
With fun for the whole family, the elaborate light displays feature everything from clever racoons toasting marshmallows to a giant gingerbread house with candy and cakes, and from a dynamic western display to a Mrs. Claus’ kitchen, the displays are sure to bring magic to everyone’s night. Santa’s Village is filled to the brim with activities and treats for those young at heart. Santa’s Interactive Barnyard features camel rides, crafting sections, hot chocolate, apple-cider donuts and even visits with Santa himself.
A few new additions to Santa’s Village have been made this year. Families can take the plunge on the Arctic Plunge Inflatable Snow Tube, take a spin on the Reindeer Carousel, and take a ride on the special Holiday Train. Those more inclined to explore can take a self-guided walking tour of the enchanting Hometown Hillsborough Historical Village. The village consists of the fairgrounds’ permanent display of antique farming equipment and replicas of buildings from the past, all decked out in traditional decor. Another new addition to the festival is the Holiday Market, where families can find the perfect gifts for those they love. The market will take place on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Along with Santa’s Village and the Christmas light spectacular, a few additional events will take place during this year’s festival. Holiday movies and video shorts will be shown on the big screen, while picnic tables and fire pits have been added to allow for even more seating.
The Hillsborough County Fairgrounds also announced this year’s special nights schedule. Special nights during December add enjoyment while giving back to the community; details about the popular nights include:
Paws & Claus Night — Thursday, December 1, 6-9 p.m.
The Hillsborough County Fair 2022 Harvest Queen Court hosts this year’s Paws & Claus Night to benefit the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center, a county-run animal shelter that connects animal lovers with county resources and fosters adoptions. Guests can bring their well-behaved pets on a leash for visits with Santa, and with a $10 donation they will receive a printed photo. As ambassadors of the Hillsborough County Fair, the Harvest Queen Court participates in community events throughout the year of their reign, and the court selected the Pet Resource Center as the recipient of this year’s donations during Paws & Claus Night.
Wounded Warrior Project Fundraiser Night — Thursday, December 8, 6-9 p.m.
Five dollars ($5) from every ticket sold this night will be donated to the Tampa chapter of the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), whose mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors, fostering the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history. WWP’s direct programs in mental health, career counseling and long-term rehabilitative care combined with its advocacy efforts help improve the lives of millions of warriors and their families.
Heroes Night — Thursday, December 15, 6-9 p.m.
The Hillsborough County Fairgrounds continues its support of members of the Military, Veterans and First Responders when they receive $10 off each ticket for Heroes Night with valid ID. Additionally, Members of the Military, Veterans and First Responders receive $5 off tickets for any night of the event with valid ID.
In addition to these special nights, live entertainment has been added to the schedule:
• Friday and Saturday, November 25 and 26: Dennis Lee.
• Friday and Saturday, December 2 and 3: Jordan Denise Williams.
• Friday and Saturday, December 9 and 10: Katie Lombardo.
• Friday and Saturday, December 16 and 17: Dennis Lee.
• Friday, December 23: The Florida Academy of Performing Arts.
Further information regarding performances by local organizations and specialty evenings will be announced this month.
“Our schedule of special nights for Tampa Bay’s Festival of Lights & Santa’s Village allows us to give back to the community in different ways,” said Suzanne Holcomb, fair manager of Greater Hillsborough County Fairgrounds. “The opportunity to get your pet’s picture taken with Santa and live entertainment featuring local talent brings extra holiday magic to Santa’s Village, creating more memories of the season.”
Sponsors for this year’s event include:
• ACME Barricades.
• Baycare for Kids.
• McCullagh and Scott General Contractors.
• Mix 100.7.
• Russell’s Work & Western Wear.
• Tampa Bay Times.
Tickets for this year’s event are on sale now and cost $25 per car or $80 per bus. For more information about the festival, please visit www.hillsboroughcountyfair.com.