Fans of all things chilly enjoyed Friday night's opening of the six-week Winter Spectacular in St. Armands Circle.
Shirley Matthews and Stephen Barnes are new to Longboat Key from Hawaii and wanted to get in the Christmas spirit, so Matthews arrived wearing an elf sweater dress and light-up glasses. Her outfit summed up the energy of opening night.
Not all the spectacular has to offer was on display yet. The virtual sleigh ride with Santa was still en route, along with the Elfie Selfie station, Letters to Santa mailbox and a “Disney-grade” snow machine that launches 75 feet.
There was still plenty to enjoy. The carousel and a ride-on train were in constant motion. First-time skaters were hitting the synthetic ice rink, and foam filled the air from the temporary snow machine. Not nearly Disney-grade, the bubbly snow caused audible delight in children and adults alike each time it turned on.
For the tourists, the holiday stop was a happy surprise after dinner in the circle. Three generations of Fletchers were visiting from Orlando.
“This is awesome,” Susan Fletcher said, “We were so excited to see this for the grandkids.”
Locals agreed. Melody Kroth had little ones in ballet class and needed something to do with her teenagers. And Sam Wade saw the event on Facebook.
“I thought, what are we going to do Friday night?” Wade said. “They love the carousel. We went on three times."
Most evenings feature live entertainment from local school children and area arts organizations. Movies play on Tuesday nights at 6 p.m. The website includes a complete list of performances.
The Winter Spectacular will be in the circle until Jan. 3 and is a cashless event. It’s easiest to book online at https://www.winteronthecircle.com/ before going, but there are tablets and staff members at the entrance to help with purchases.