As a hush fell over a darkened Main Street, Santa flicked a giant switch and dazzled the crowd with hundreds of brilliantly colored lights that adorned the trees and facades of stores and apartment buildings.
This year on Nov. 18, thousands of revelers enjoyed the Festival of Lights display along several blocks in downtown Miami Lakes during the event that has delighted families for 38 years.
The free street party is presented by The Graham Companies and Main Street Merchants is an annual tradition for many people in South Florida.
For two decades, the Kilzi family of Miami Lakes has attended the community gathering.
“All the fun and the lighting [of the street],” Laila Kilzi said about what brings her back, year after year. “It’s just getting into the Christmas spirit.”
It serves as her family’s kick off for the holiday season.
Main Street was lined with old fashioned activities for kids who paused at tables to decorate ornaments, write letters to Santa, color in drawings and have their faces painted.
They were accompanied by the sounds of school choruses singing and the soundtracks that young dancers performed to.
Girl Scouts sold customized Santa hats and stockings and the Boy Scouts sold snacks. Spectators also enjoyed free cotton candy and popcorn.
A large, decorated picture frame served as a photo station and added to the holiday cheer.
“We gather [together] and come,” Kilzi said of her clan.
Bob Graham Education Center and Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic School brought their choruses to sing for the crowds. Moms and dads and grandparents held aloft cellphone cameras to capture the precious moments.
Costumed dancers from GiGi’s Dance Studio, Arts for Autism and My Gym Miami Lakes performed moves to holiday favorites.
Kids could also visit with Santa. If you missed out, don’t worry, he’ll be back this month at My Gym Miami Lakes on Main Street.
Visitors shared the good will by donating toys to be distributed by the Giving Gators charity and the WCBS-Ch. 4 Neighbors 4 Neighbors program. And Miami-Dade County Animal Services brought pets for adoption.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sen. Rene Garcia represents District 13 which includes Miami Lakes. He presented Giving Gators with a $1,000 donation that founder Daylin Garcia and President Denis Brenes accepted for the charity’s toy campaign.
Mayor Manny Cid was joined by Vice Mayor Tony Fernandez and Council members Ray Garcia, Luis Collazo and Josh Dieguez.
“The fact that [The Graham Companies] offers this is great,” Kilzi said.
Also drawing crowds was the Miami Lakes Farmer’s Market. Organizers strung lights across New Barn Road and above vendors’ tents. The market stayed open late to serve festival visitors.
In addition to the Graham Companies and the Main Street Merchants, sponsors were Clear Channel Outdoor; HDS Companies; Miami-Dade County; The Miami Laker and Neighbors for Neighbors.
Main Street will continue to be the place to enjoy holiday traditions on Saturday, Dec. 9 and Dec. 16. Students from area schools will sing and dance on a stage at New Barn Road from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Santa will be at My Gym, 6763 Main St., to greet kids those Saturdays. Parents and guardians may take photos from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and on Dec. 23, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Photo taking is free, though donations to the My Gym Foundation will be accepted.