Mayor R.B. Johnson gets ready to light the tree during what appears to be a snowstorm in Indian Rocks Beach.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – There was something new at this year’s tree lighting ceremony in Indian Rocks Beach and it had the kids howling with delight. An artificial snow machine was fired up just as Mayor R.B. Johnson stood to speak and it brought dozens of children around him as they chased snowflakes and tried to catch them before they hit the ground. There was no doubt it was a hit.
The tree lighting ceremony has taken place at the 12th Avenue Park since it opened about 10 years ago. Prior to that, the ceremony was held at City Hall. This year’s event took place on Dec. 6 and according to one estimate, it drew 200 people who showed up for the festivity. It included music by members of the St. Jerome’s Church choir, lots of freshly popped popcorn and plenty of cookies and hot chocolate with marshmallows.
The event was a delight for first-timers Niles Harper and Kelly and Madison Kennedy. They moved to IRB from Atlanta less than a year ago so this was their first tree lighting ceremony.
“Our landlady always sends us emails about what is going on,” said Kennedy. “She told us we just had to come to this, and I’m glad we did, so far so good.”
“When the lights come on we’re going to cheer and sing,” she added.
Madison, 12, said she likes Christmas lights of all kinds so this event fitter her perfectly.
“I also like the popcorn and the hot chocolate,” she said.
Sitting nearby was IRB resident Sonja Kis and her daughter Ilona, 2. Kis said she has been coming to the tree lighting for the past three years, but this was the first for her daughter.
“This is a good community get together,” she said. “It is very children friendly, everyone is in good spirits and we can’t forget the good popcorn.”
Kis said she’ll be back again and again.
Standing on the sidelines and watching it was resident Eric Meyer. The fact that he was standing and watching was unusual. As president of Action 2000 he’s usually involved in an event. This one is put on by the city, and Meyer said it is something he appreciates.
“This is a great community event put on by a wonderful city,” he said. “They give back to the residents in so many ways.”
Meyer, who was there with his grandsons Ethan Flagg, 8, and Christian Flagg, 7, then paid tribute to city employee Randy Schwab, who was part of the contingent making it all happen.
“Randy is always here. He’s in it to win it,” he said laughing.
Then it was time for the tree lighting itself. Mayor Johnson did the annual countdown with all the children running around still chasing those snowflakes. Then the lights went on to a chorus of ooh’s and aah’s.
“That is pretty awesome,” said Madison Kennedy, who finally got to see the lights that she loves.