ORLANDO — Earlier this month, on Nov. 14, the fountain at Lake Eola turned blue.
If that seems like a somber color, it was for a reason. The city was officially using that color in recognition of World Diabetes Day, and to raise awareness of the illness that has impacted so many lives.
The next day, the fountain turned purple, this time to commemorate Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month and Hunger and Homeless Awareness Month as well.
On Friday, though, the fountain at Lake Eola will be displaying the colors green and red more regularly, and the city will use the final day in November to officially kick off the holiday season.
Starting at 4 p.m. at the Walt Disney Amphitheater at Lake Eola Park, there will be the traditional and official lighting of the city’s Christmas tree. That tree has been standing next to the Amphitheater for more than a week now, after Parks & Recreation Department workers set it up there.
The annual Holiday Lights Orlando event will be followed by a presentation of “The Gift,” a play presented by the Trinity Downtown Evangelical Lutheran Church and School. The evening will also include live music, an outdoor movie, and holiday treats for everyone to enjoy.
Lake Eola Park, at 195 N. Rosalind Ave., will come to life at 4 p.m. when the Christmas Festival begins. At 6:15 p.m., Mayor Buddy Dyer will be on hand for the Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Then at 7:30 p.m.. Trinity Church will perform its annual Christmas special, “The Gift,” and this free event will also include the lighting of a menorah, and an outdoor viewing of the movie “Elf” with Will Ferrell.
As for the tree decorating, it will include traditional red, green and silver decorations – plus 2,000 LED lights and several hundred ornaments.
Plan to arrive early, because a huge crowd regularly turns out for this event.
“We get a few thousand people each year,” said April Michael, who handles event sponsorships and vending information for the City of Orlando Office of Communications. “It’s from 4 to 10 (p.m.), so usually the crowd is pretty good. It’s a partnership with Trinity. This is the second year we’ve partnered with them.”
This is also an opportunity to stroll past Lake Eola Park, and check out the lights and sights in downtown Orlando.
Just as the major theme parks like to tempt visitors with special holiday light shows — such as Walt Disney World’s Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Hollywood Studios, where lights dance to holiday music – a walking tour in Downtown Orlando is available without those hefty theme park admission prices.
Take a stroll along Lake Eola, and there are holiday decorations all around you, from the small dangling lights on holiday wreaths and trees, to those running up and down the shrubs … to the Lake Eola Fountain that lights up in red and green all evening long.
Pedestrians can stop and sit on a park bench, relax and watch the music and light show — a visual display of multi-colored lights as the fountain marches in lockstep with the songs being played over the loudspeaker, and with the view of downtown Orlando surrounding everyone in the background.
The fountain that dates back to the 1950s has once again become a draw for people in downtown, and the centerpiece of the lake. The fountain suffered electrical and mechanical problems in the summer of 2009 when it was struck by a lightning bolt.
The fountain was renovated, re-dedicated and resumed operation on July 4, 2011, during the Fireworks at the Fountain Independence Day event. Now the nightly shows are four minutes and 35 seconds long.
When the music show ends, the lights continue to change, slowly, on the fountain’s three levels, and without the music, there is only the gentle sound of the water gushing from the water jets at the top of the fountain.
But there are interesting sights well past this popular park.
Another option on Friday is to enjoy unlimited samples of the world’s greatest beers, plus free treats from area restaurants and live music at the Orlando Holiday Brew Fest. This event is being held at nearby Heritage Square at 65 E. Central Boulevard in downtown Orlando from 6-10 p.m., to help raise money for the Orange County Regional History Center.
Patrons must be the legal drinking age of 21, with a photo ID, to get in. For more information, log on to Florida Beer Festivals.
On a more somber note, on Thursday, Nov. 29, the 21st Annual Covenant House International Candlelight Vigil for Homeless Youth will be held at Lake Eola, starting at 6 p.m.
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