The Comcast Holiday Festival of Lights returns Saturday to celebrate the season with a full day of family fun.
Cape Coral Parkway will be shut down in favor of the event, turning downtown into a winter wonderland to celebrate all things Christmas.
Starting at 4 p.m., thousands of people are expected to descend on the festival which blends live music and performance, rides and fun activities for the kids, the ceremonial lighting of the Christmas Tree and of course the arrival of the big man himself, Santa Claus!
"This type of event is warm and fuzzy. It just feels good to see the community come together to celebrate the holidays," said Chamber of Commerce Events Director Bob Knickman. "It's a special thing."
Absolutely free and open to the public, one of the favorite attractions over the years has been the snowdrift slide.
Sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Cape Coral, the snowdrift slide is going to offer two designs, a speed slide and an alpine slide. The Tiny Tots train ride, also free and also sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Cape Coral, will spirit the kids around near the Wendy's parking lot.
What, 2011 COmcast Holiday Festival of Lights
Where, Along Cape Coral Parkway, Downtown Cape Coral
When, Saturday, Dec 3, 4 - 10 p.m.
More information, capecoralevents.com
Free photos will be available for families who brave the thrilling and chilly snowdrift slides. And a special diaper changing tent will be available so parents can tend to the real little ones after nature calls.
Also free for the kids, is Kidz Street, an interactive play area sponsored by the Cape Christian church, which features a host of inflatable attractions along with arts and crafts.
Knickman said there will also be plenty of chances to do some early Christmas shopping as 70 different vendors will be on hand, peddling their wares.
"All kinds of unique Christmas gifts will be available to buy. We're pretty excited about it," Knickman added.
Of course, at the heart of all the festivities is the lighting of the Christmas Tree and the arrival of Santa Claus in front of Big John's plaza, which fronts Cape Coral Parkway.
Sponsored by LCEC, the Christmas tree features 10,000 LED lights, which makes it not only gorgeous but also energy efficient. Knickman said it normally costs about $60 to operate the tree but, with the addition of the LED lights, that cost goes down to roughly $10.
In years past, the tree was lit and then the big guy in red would arrive in some spectacular fashion. But this year, Knickman said Santa is showing up first, then will help with the lighting of the tree.
Knickman was keeping the method of Santa's arrival this year under wraps, but said Santa's help with lighting the tree this year will make it an extra special occasion.
"We decided to do it right this time," Knickman said.
The arrival of Santa Claus and the lighting of the tree are expected to happen between 6:15 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
With a host of other fun opportunities, including tons of food and drinks, a treasure hunt among South Cape shop owners that could result in cash and gift certificates, a fundraising auction and raffle prizes, Knickman said the hope was to create a large event with a small town vibe.
"We're trying to create a Mayberry effect in downtown for the holidays," he said.
For more information on the event visit eventscapecoral.com. Information on all the attractions, performers and vendors are available at the website, along with a map and schedule.
Knickman also is urging caution when it comes to parking for the event. He said it was important to take note of any tow-away signs before parking and leaving your car.