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Light Up the Season

Ballet Vero Beach performs Nutcracker on the Indian River

Ballet Vero Beach performs Nutcracker on the Indian River, an innovative version choreographed by Artistic Director and CEO Adam Schnell that places the action on the Treasure Coast.

Enjoy the many dazzling festivities that bring holiday cheer and wonder to old and young alike


See the holiday datebook for times and dates of holiday events.

It’s holiday time on the Treasure Coast — time to enjoy the lights and welcome the lighthearted fun the season brings with it. Be there to soak up the spirited parades on land and water, the imaginatively decorated trees, glittery gingerbread villages, displays born of thousands of twinkling lights, the variety of Nutcrackers, uplifting music, fun festivals and even foods as the farmers’ markets help fill that holiday table.

Be enthralled with a version of The Nutcracker danced by Ballet Vero Beach that will bring smiles of recognition as it unfolds. Set in 1919, the year Vero was founded, it is called Nutcracker on the Indian River. Candies from the original 1892 ballet are now manatees, land crabs and river otters. This enchanting version was created by Adam Schnell, artistic director and CEO of Ballet Vero Beach.

Wander through a forest of glittering trees decorated to match a Favorite Things theme in the 21st annual Festival of Trees in November at Riverside Theatre in Vero Beach. The whole Riverside campus is transformed with lights and decorations, making a visit an immersive experience with the community songfest, entertainment, Santa’s Village, colorful trees, gifts, and food and drink.

Children can wear shorts while skating on artificial ice and eat breakfast with a merry Santa. A gingerbread village set out among the trees is intricate, creative, and likely to have you reaching for your camera. Holiday vendors sell gifts you may not find elsewhere. And hand-decorated holiday wreaths are available too.

The festival’s gala on Friday, Nov. 16, features New York and Los Angeles band leader and singer Michael Andrew, theater spokesman Oscar Sales says.

Creativity galore astounds visitors as they celebrate the holidays at Heathcote Botanical Garden’s Garden of Lights. Volunteers work for months to design and create the ingenious lighted waterfalls, birds, fish, plants, cherry blossoms in a Japanese garden and even a coral reef. The popular event in Fort Pierce is only open Friday and Saturday evenings and is a destination for the whole Treasure Coast. Refreshments, music and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus round out the evening. Children can search for illuminated critters (and a few live ones).

“It’s about celebrating life and the garden,” says Diane Kimes, executive director. “We have some new displays this year and we’ve changed some we had last year.”

Anyone looking for something unlikely to be found in the frozen north should check out the dazzling flotillas of boats in the boat parades of Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin counties, organized by the Marine Industries Association of the Treasure Coast. Watch as Rudolph, Santa’s sleigh and reindeer, garlands and gifts, elves and decorated trees, all covered with lights, float by against the darkness of evening skies. Consider taking a camera and binoculars.

“Vero is celebrating its centennial, so there will be an extra spirit to that parade,” says Michele Miller, spokeswoman for the local chapter of the Marine Industries organization. The parade on Dec. 15 starts at 6 p.m. north of the 17th Street Bridge.

The Martin and St. Lucie county boat parades are both on Dec. 8. For the Martin parade, head for the east side of the Jensen Beach Causeway for the 6 p.m. start. It can also be seen from Sandsprit Park and Manatee Pocket.

The St. Lucie boat parade starts in the Indian River Lagoon at Taylor Creek near Harbortown Marina at 6:30 p.m., turns around at the Fort Pierce Inlet and ends at the Fort Pierce City Marina. It can be viewed from numerous locations, including the Riverwalk and Causeway Park. Viewing information and details for the three boat parades can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/TCboatparade.

The very popular Sights and Sounds on Second Street Festival in downtown Fort Pierce on Dec. 2 features a parade on Indian River Drive with marching bands and cheerful floats decorated in a Joy to the World theme. But don’t miss the tree lighting, activities for kids and, of course, Santa. The festival starts at 1 p.m. and the parade at 4. The tree lighting is between 5:30 and 6 p.m.

The Lyric Theatre in Stuart kicks off its holiday shows with A Peter White Christmas, the beloved jazz show that audiences demand year after year. It’s followed by A Swingin’ Little Christmas, featuring Jane Lynch, perhaps better known as Sue Sylvester on the television show Glee. Several Nutcracker performances round out the Lyric’s holiday shows.

“The show with Jane Lynch is new to us,” says Kia Fontaine, the theater’s executive director. “The Peter White Christmas is loved by the jazz aficionados and it sells out every year.”

The Hobe Sound Singing Christmas Tree is a delight for the eyes and ears. With more than 75 voices in the choir, a cast of about 50 and an orchestra, it is one of the most popular holiday events, attracting thousands to hear the music and see the Christmas pageant. The doors open Nov. 29 to Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m., but staff members caution that it is best to be there at 6 if you want to be sure of a seat. Performances are at the Hobe Sound Bible Church and College.

Many singing groups around the Treasure Coast offer uplifting Christmas concerts. For example, the Treasure Coast Community Singers present The Splendor of Christmas on Dec. 1-2 at 3 p.m. at the North Stuart Baptist Church.

The Community Church of Vero Beach hosts Noel, Noel, a Celebration of Christmas on Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. with the Community Church Chancel Choir, Vero Beach Choral Society, Tapestry Brass, the talented Atlantic Ringers, and pianists Rochelle Sallee and Jacob Craig.

Check out the downtown parades around the Treasure Coast. If you love a parade, you can see all of them because they are on different days. Besides the Dec. 2 parade in Fort Pierce, don’t miss the Visiting Nurse’s Association Stuart parade on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. on East Ocean Boulevard. This year’s theme, Christmas in Toyland, will be reflected in the many colorful floats that go by.

In Vero Beach the parade kicks off at Flamevine Lane at 6 p.m. on Dec. 1 and proceeds north along Ocean Drive to Live Oak Drive. The city of Sebastian also offers a holiday parade.

Six holiday shows grace the stage of the Sunrise Theatre in Fort Pierce’s historical downtown this year. Drumline Holiday Spectacular takes viewers through a mixture of holiday songs with an energetic and beautifully choreographed marching band. Jazz saxophonist Dave Koz and Friends are new to the Sunrise, theater spokeswoman Anne Satterlee says. Shows like The Midtown Men with music from the ‘60s, the much-loved A Christmas Carol and two exquisite Nutcracker ballets round out the Sunrise holiday season.

McKee Botanical Garden sparkles with its Holidays at McKee as the Vero garden comes alive in the evening with thousands of twinkling lights. The Hall of Giants features McKeesville, a miniature village with many of the pieces donated by volunteers. The brightly lighted 40-building village, its streets covered with snow, is fascinating with its post office, frozen skating pond, a bank, television repair shop and several churches.

A large-scale model train follows tracks over a trestle, along a hillside, and through a village, much to the delight of children. The holiday celebration is for only one weekend, Dec. 21-23, so be sure to set aside time for it. The following weekend, visit the garden to see it transformed with special lighting displays.

“We love celebrating the holidays through our annual Holidays at McKee and Nights of Lights Celebration,” says Christine Hobart, director of the garden. ”For many of our members and guests, it has become a tradition to kick off their holidays at McKee. We hope this tradition will continue for generations to follow.”

As families make their holiday plans, one of the most fun and exciting for the kids and their families is the Festival of Lights at the Port St. Lucie Civic Center on Dec. 1, set for 2-10 p.m. Come early to enjoy the live entertainment and do some shopping at vendor booths, get in a visit with Santa and clap for the youth groups performing on the outdoor stage.

The parade’s theme this year is Snowflakes and Snowmen, sure to make the youngsters smile, and is followed by the lighting of the city’s spectacular Christmas tree. It’s always a day and evening to remember — but don’t stop there. Head for the Port St. Lucie Community Center on Airoso Boulevard to see the Winter Wonderland Light Show with music, which runs every evening in December. The city also offers a holiday luncheon with activities and music for those with special needs and their caregivers.

The Hallstrom Planetarium at Indian River State College’s Fort Pierce campus presents its annual special program, Star of Wonder, about the star that may have guided the Magi more than 2,000 years ago, on two weekends: Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, and Dec. 7-8. On Saturday, Dec. 8, the planetarium presents a holiday concert with the music of John Serriel.

Each year seems to bring new events and expanded annual events to the residents and visitors of the Treasure Coast. With so many really good ones coming up, make sure to put the events you want to attend on your calendar so they don’t slip by. It truly is that oh-so-special time of year.