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Holidays on the Ranch will melt your hear

Jay Heater: Side of Ranch

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Keith Pandeloglou always talks about how working the "Santa line" at last year's Holidays on the Ranch on Lakewood Main Street convinced him to find a job where he could interact more with the community.

There he was, dressed as the world's biggest elf, looking into the eyes of smiling children as they climbed up on old Saint Nick's lap. His heart melted ... kind of the Grinch in reverse. Those who have seen Pandeloglou, such as during Eggstravaganza, know his heart already was 10 sizes too big.

By March, Pandeloglou had pursued and accepted his current role as director of Lakewood Ranch Community Activities.

Now, though, comes to light the real story of what pushed Pandeloglou from being primarily a private sector business whiz into a guy who spends much of his time trying to figure out what makes children laugh.

The morning after last year's Holidays on the Ranch, Pandeloglou drove in early to his business, Cowork LWR, on Lakewood Main, where he became a little perplexed about what he saw on a 70-degree morning.

The snow slide, shown here at last hear's Holidays Around the Ranch, returns Dec. 8.
The snow slide, shown here at last hear's Holidays Around the Ranch, returns Dec. 8.

There, in the middle of the street, sat a pile of ... snow.

He certainly knew the festivities the night before included some of the real fluffy stuff, but he never imagined it would stick around the next day. This particular pile was starting to pull a Frosty on a warm day, and it wasn't particularly appealing since it had been mixed with a healthy dose of muddy yuck, but it was, after all, still snow.

Obviously, it wasn't going to last long, but the next hour or so would be problematic for anyone who wanted to drive down the street. Pandeloglou ran out to a hardware store, purchased a shovel and returned to clean up the street. What a cool Florida community, he thought. Snow on Main Street.

He was hooked.

On Friday, Dec 8, from 6 to 9 p.m., Holidays Around the Ranch returns and this time Pandeloglou is running the snow ... er... show. 

The snow, indeed, will be back as a snow slide will be set up in front of Let's Create Art. The morning-after pile might be someone else's responsibility.

Santa will set up shop in front of the J&J Gallery because Pandeloglou felt it was supply a better backdrop for those seeking family photos. "We wanted to go to a place where we could have a professional photographer in a controlled environment," Pandeloglou said. "Our challenge is that we only have three hours and we need to keep the visits to, maybe, 30 seconds."

The Silver Stars Dance Team of Lakewood Ranch High will provide entertainment at Holidays Around the Ranch.
The Silver Stars Dance Team of Lakewood Ranch High will provide entertainment at Holidays Around the Ranch.

Helping to move the line along will be elves more suited to the role. Youth volunteers from the group SUGAR (Showing Unconditional Goodwill And Respect) will take over the duties Pandeloglou performed a year ago. The goal is to get 300 people through the Santa line and free tickets will be issued to get a spot in line.

"Honestly, those Santa elves are most important," Pandeloglou said. "SUGAR is set up to focus on volunteer opportunities for children under 10. We are fortunate to have them, and now we will have our mini elves."

The ice skating rink will be gone this year because it was too pricey for the amount of people it served.

The event will feature a steady stream of live performances, such as appearances by Powerhouse Dance, Sarasota Dance and the Silver Stars Dance Team of Lakewood Ranch High School.

Overflow parking will not be allowed in the Lakewood Ranch Medical Center parking lot this year but a trolley will pick up those who would like to park for free at the Magnolia Green parking lot and board the trolley at the corner of Lakewood Ranch Boulevard and University Parkway.

Pandeloglou said he has scheduled 48 volunteer shifts at the event and he welcomes anyone who would like to help. "There always is something to do," he said.

Also proving entertainment will be inflatable balls that allow children to climb inside and then roll down the street, a trackless train and a disc jockey. The Kindness Project will be hiding its rocks around the area.

Pandeloglou hopes it is an even better event than last year and he expects about 2,000 patrons. He is prepared for just about anything that comes up, and he even has a shovel.


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