There was no shortage of smiles and laughter as between 700 and 1000 vehicles made their way through the Veterans Community Park parking lot on Saturday evening, as residents and visitors alike enjoyed an evening out. They were led by one of Santa’s Elves on his bright red three-wheeler and a color guard from the American Legion Post 404.
The two-hour motorcade of cars and some golf carts wound through a makeshift “village” of floats and presentations by local organizations. On the advice of Marco Island Police Captain David Baer, the start time was moved up a little to allow his officers to prevent a backup of traffic onto Collier Boulevard.
As attendees worked their way down the first lane of the layout, they passed by several displays of traditional presentations of delightful reminders of the holiday season, as well as receiving well wishes from those who were helping to keep them safe. A display of some of Marco Island PD’s motorized vehicles, including jet skis, a motorcycle and one of the local cruisers were onsite and manned by some of the department’s Community Service Officers.
As they worked down that first lane of traffic, they also could listen to the Marco Island Charter Middle School Jazz Band who play a wide variety of music, to including favorite holiday tunes. “This was a wonderful evening for our children and the community,” said Martie Miller, the long-time school music teacher, as the Charter Middle School Principal, Michelle Wheeler proudly watched her students perform.
A little further down the line they would find the Lutheran Church with a wonderful display, and just past the Middle School Jazz Band would be the San Marco Catholic Church’s Knights of Columbus display.
No one would be disappointed, for when they made the turn and were able to see Santa and Mrs. Claus sitting in front of a special float, the vehicle occupants would explode with joy. “The float that was provided for Mr. and Mrs. Claus was constructed by Gulfstream Homes as part of their community outreach program. “We were pleased when they asked us to do it,” said Sandi Sims, a member of the Christmas Island Style Committee.
Vehicles would glide by other floats and displays from a number of organizations, such as the island’s two Rotary Clubs. They would demonstrate the Rotary commitment to being a gift that continues to give within communities and around the world, as those needs are identified.
The Marco Island Fire Foundation would also take the opportunity to present the Fire Department’s Firefighter of the Year for 2020. Lt. Robert Riegler and his family were present as the department and the Fire Foundation decorated vehicles highlighted Riegler’s contributions to the community.
A number of other floats and organizations added to the festive nature of the evening, including the always popular Presbyterian Church’s presentation of singers and their live Crèche. Paying respects to their fellow mariners that have served in U.S. Submarine Service, their representatives would bring a scale model of USS Florida, named after the State of Florida and commissioned in 1983.
Another great community contributor was the Island County Club and F Troop who would display an antique Calliope that is used at various charitable events around the island.
The Marco Island Sports Fishing Club was also well represented that evening with a very festive display and a number of its members, as were the Sunshine Sisters who made a big hit with those driving through the route.
The Affordable Landscaping Services team also went all out to provide a great demonstration of their involvement within the community to celebrate the Christmas Holiday Season.
The Daily Food Pantry, who also displayed at the event was a big winner, as an anonymous donation came in for $1500 as well as Christmas Island Style matching that donation for another $1500. A considerable amount of non-perishable items were also donated as well as other cash donations to help fund their efforts. “At this time of year, it is important that we do all we can for those doing such a great service for those in need during these trying times,” said Wanda Burson, one of the many CIS volunteers.
“We think the event went over very well,” said Greg Schneider, who helped to coordinate the layout for the event, with a focus on trying to keep everyone safe. “We were extremely pleased to have so many wonderful comments from those individuals as they passed through the event. It provided all those that worked so hard under difficult circumstances with a sense of pride and relief,” commented Schneider.