ORLANDO — All it took was the flick of a switch, and it happened so instantly — and beautifully: the lights in front of the Orange County Regional History Center suddenly turned on, brightly illuminating Heritage Park Square.
If anyone was still waiting for downtown Orlando to get into the holiday spirit, then a stop at Heritage Square would likely have done the trick. This was a free event that has traditionally been the kickoff to the holiday season in downtown, was a reminder that Christmas was on the way.
History Holiday at Heritage Square is annually held on the first week in December, as area residents gather outside the museum to watch the lights come on at 6 p.m. sharp.
The lights flash brightly, illuminating the park that links the Wall Street Plaza on one side to the Orlando Public Library on the other, with the History Center in-between.
About 15 minutes before the lights went on, students from the Grand Avenue Elementary Choir gathered in Heritage Square to sing holiday songs to the crowd, and then Mayor Teresa Jacobs stepped up to toss the switch and turn on those lights.
Afterwards, the entertainment moved inside the museum itself, where on the third floor, Voices of Valencia performed in the historically preserved courtroom.
On the second floor, from 6-8 p.m., there were plenty of opportunities for kids to have some fun, including at a holiday crafts station, or at a station where they could write letters to Santa …..
…. or get the opportunity to take photos with Santa, who arrived, sleigh and all, to greet the kids.
Jacobs also asked the people in the crowd – and the entire community – to do more than just enjoy these events by becoming a “holiday hero.”
Starting last year, the Orange County mayor decided to sponsor a Holiday Heroes Toy Drive, asking members of the community to drop off a new, unwrapped toy for a child 18-years-old and younger at numerous drop-off locations.
The donation deadline is Dec. 15, and agencies taking part in this drive — and who will distribute the toys to local families — include the Orange County Neighborhood Centers for Families, the Community Food and Outreach Center, Wraparound Orange, and Toys for Tots.
The drop off locations include all branches of the Orlando Federal Credit Union, the Orange County Recreation Center at Barnett Park, and all five Magic/Orange County recreation centers. There was also a drop-off box in the Orange County History Center.
For a list of gift ideas, log on to www.orangecountyfl.net.
Next up for the Orange County History Center will be Drop and Shop on Sunday, Dec. 9, from 2-6 p.m. This is an opportunity for parents to leave their kids at the History Center while they go off to do their holiday shopping. The children, meanwhile, will have an opportunity to spend the afternoon watching movies, making crafts, creating gifts and ornaments, tasting some holiday snacks, and even learning about some holiday traditions.
The cost is $5 per child, and this event is for kids ages 4-11. To learn more, call 407-836-8580.
The Orange County Regional History Center is at 65 E. Central Boulevard in downtown Orlando. To learn more, visit History Center.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.