POINCIANA – When Poinciana held its annual Christmas parade on Saturday, it drew a large crowd there to see an impressive array of floats, said Wendy Farrell, a Poinciana resident and business owner.
“It was awesome,” she said. “We had 61 entrees and we gave away 12 trophies.”
It was so well done, Farrell said, that when it was over, something occurred to her. As the crowd began to disperse and head back home or to somewhere else, Farrell said she suddenly realized that the community had missed out on an opportunity to have done something much more ambitious.
What Poinciana should have done, she said, was make that parade the starting point for an all-day event, perhaps tying it in to the new ball field at Vance Harmon Park on Cypress Parkway, as well as to the nearby shopping plazas. There were an unlimited amount of options the community could have pursued.
“You can tie it into a sidewalk sale,” Farrell said. “Everyone is already there, and you can make a day of it. People do go eat out, but we need to make it more of a community event that people go to every year.
“But,” she added, “It takes a community to make it happen.”
Farrell lives in Osceola and runs a business there, Signature Promotions. She’s also the incoming chairman of the Poinciana Business Council, which meets once a month and hosts special events like a summer Business Expo. Farrell is also a member of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, a group working to promote more jobs and economic development in Poinciana, a community of 84,000 that cuts across Osceola and Polk counties.
PEDA met this morning at the office of the Manhattan Kraft construction firm on Poinciana Boulevard, to discuss their plans for 2012. Farrell said a great goal for the community would be to find more holiday and social events to bring people together – including a vastly expanded Christmas parade celebration early in the month of December, and a New Year’s Eve bash. Right now, Poinciana has neither, outside of the annual Christmas parade.
“I want to look at expanding that, so it could be a real community event,” she said. “It just takes commitment.”
After the parade, she said, Poinciana could host sidewalk sales and have businesses take part in special holiday events and deals. It could be a great way, she said, to introduce residents who are new to Poinciana to what the community has to offer, especially if those newcomers are more used to driving to Kissimmee or Haines City to shop and buy what they need.
“It gets people in here, and they say ‘Oh, I didn’t know this was here and that was here,’ “ Farrell said. “People don’t know what’s in their own back yard.”
PEDA member Letha Vanderhei agreed, saying special events like that can demonstrate that there’s a customer base for the businesses operating in Poinciana – and perhaps send an equally strong signal to companies outside the community.
“Maybe that would spur more businesses to come here,” she said.
Farrell said a day-long celebration wouldn’t have to be limited to the Christmas season, either.
“We could do it at Halloween, too, during the trick or treating,” she said, and suggested a New Year’s Eve bash as well. Farrell noted that downtown Kissimmee, downtown Celebration and Downtown Disney all attract strong crowds for special holiday events on the last night of the year – often drawing big crowds from Poinciana.
Why not give those residents something to do in Poinciana as well, she added.
“I’d love for us to do something for New Year’s Eve,” Farrell said. “On New Year’s Eve, I go to Celebration. How weird is that? I live in Poinciana, but there’s nothing to do here.”
Nick Murdock, the chairman of PEDA, agreed that Celebration attracts huge, overflow crowds for the Osceola County community’s special events on holidays like Independence Day.
“Celebration does real well with their festivals,” he said.
Vanderhei said other Florida cities do the same thing, with a lot of success.
“Fort Myers has the ball drop on New Year’s Eve,” she said. “Although they have a much bigger downtown than we do.”
Still, Farrell said now, before the new year has started, would be a good time to start thinking – and planning – for these events.
“It takes a willingness and a ‘How can we’ attitude, rather than a ‘How can’t we,’ ” she said.
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