'Christmas In The Village' enchants many
Pallavi Agarwal | Highlands TodayFORT MEADE - Thousands of Christmas lights shine in the dark as trams, pulled by 17 antique tractors, take visitors around.
Published: December 11, 2012
Published: December 11, 2012
It's Christmas In The Village at the Florida Flywheelers Park, a 240-acre homage to antique tractors and engines, sandwiched between Avon Park and Fort Meade, on 7000 Avon Park Cut-Off Road.
There are lights, of course, festooned on buildings and old engines; many Christmas displays; volunteers in period costume guiding visitors around and others handing out free hotdogs, cookies, hot chocolate, eggnog and cider.
Frank and Maxine Schuman made the two-hour trip from Deland in Volusia County.
They belong to a club that fixes and displays old engines and have friends who belong to the Flywheelers Club.
This was their first trip and Frank Schuman was sure he was going to come back again and spend more time.
Flywheeler Club President Kevin Savage said the annual Christmas tradition started nine years ago.
They used to get many requests from surrounding cities and towns to bring their antique tractors to the parades.
They had an idea. Why not bring the community to the park instead?
"Since we are a non-profit, we thought this would be a good way to give back," he said.
Now, the event, which spans two weekends in December, also is used to raise money, toys and canned food for area benefits and Toys for Tots.
Admission to the Christmas event, which runs again from 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 14 and 15, is an unwrapped toy, canned food, a monetary donation or all three.
Last Friday and Saturday, 1,600 people came in through the gates of Central Florida's "Winter Wonderland."
This coming weekend, Savage is expecting a bigger turnout.
"If you haven't seen it, you really out to," he said.
About 80 volunteers help, from setting up the displays to driving people around.
Saturday, Shirley Streamer was one of them.
Seated in the front of a tram that took a group from ones top to another, Streamer pointed out the park's notable features along the way: a Blacksmith's Shop; a sheriff's department, dubbed Brimstone Corner; a saloon; a working sawmill; an old Shell gas station that had to be from the distant past. The price of gas on its sign was 49 cents a gallon, unleaded.
While many of the buildings, trams and trees were lit up, some of those bearing – or let's say wearing -- lights got people's attention.
A volunteer, who Streamer described as "used car dealer Willie," came out of nowhere in the dark, bathed in Christmas lights from head to tow.
"Willie" didn't look a bit like Santa but it's Christmas season after all, so no one minded when he borrowed old St Nick's greeting.
As people pointed him out and giggled, Willie ho, ho, ho-ed back with enthusiasm.