BALDWIN PARK – Glancing out the window of his store on New Broad Street, Frank Walters could easily see the massive crowd lining the sidewalk – covering virtually every amount of free space along that street.
As huge as the turnout was, Walters smiled and said what really appeals to people about this community is “It’s just a small town feel.”
Baldwin Park is not one of the oldest neighborhoods in Orlando, by any means, but it is one inspired by the past. Located just three miles from downtown Orlando, and built on the site of a former Naval Training Center, it is a 1,100-acre neighborhood and home to 8,000 residents and more than 125 businesses.
On Saturday, Baldwin Park came alive for the holidays, as the community hosted its annual Festival of Lights in the Village Center. It was an event complete with brightly lit snowflakes dangling from the trees, a performance by the Lake Howell High Jazz Ensemble, and a lengthy parade.
Pedestrians lined up along New Broad Street to watch the spectacle. Some brought chairs with them, others sat on benches or watched from their front porches, or placed blankets directly on the street.
Shops like Kennedy’s All-American Barber Club had a Christmas tree lit in its window, as did Baldwin Park Family Dental next door and CVS across the street.
Inside the store that Walters operates, Victoria Jewelers, there were poinsettias decorated everywhere the eye could see.
Right outside, the crowd cheered as the sun was setting and the parade was beginning.
“We always get a good crowd,” Frank Walters said. “It’s awesome.”
“We were here last year, and it seems even more crowded this year,” said his daughter, Lindsay Walters. “Santa Claus on the fire truck is pretty fun.”
Nearby, Carlos Zamora and Seth Herwitz, juniors at Lake Howell High, were getting ready to perform Jazz music for the crowd, on a bandstand at the intersection of New Broad Street and Prospect Avenue.
“We performed here last year at this same event,” Herwitz said. “It looks like the crowd is a lot bigger than last year.”
It was not Christmas songs being performed, though.
“We’re performing ‘A String of Pearls,’ ‘Lady Mac,’ and the third one is ‘New Musical Express,’ ” Zamora said. “The last one is sort of a Christmas song — ‘Go Tell it On The Mountain.’ ”
Frank Walters said the Baldwin Park Village Center has grown this year in other ways.
‘’We do a First Friday event every Friday that draws a lot of crowds, too,” he said. “They have local artist displays and the local restaurants stay open late. It’s an art stroll. It’s been going on for about six or seven months, and it keeps getting bigger.”
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