A merry month

Area gears up for holidays

Published: Wednesday, December 1, 2004 at 1:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 1, 2004 at 1:50 p.m.
Parades and tree-lighting ceremonies will usher in the holiday season in the communities in and around Gainesville.
Some will hold traditional day-time parades, while others will fill the night with Christmas lights. High Springs usually holds an evening parade, while Keystone Heights is trying the idea out for the first time this year.
Alachua will hold a Christmas parade at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11 on Main Street and U.S. 441. The theme is ''Peace on Earth,'' and the grand marshal will be Glen Markham, a World War II veteran.
High Springs will hold a ''Twilight Christmas Parade'' at 6 p.m. Saturday. The theme is "A Country Christmas," and the grand marshal will be Wes Skiles, a renown photographer.
Waldo is celebrating ''Christmas at the Caboose'' at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 16. Santa Claus will make an entrance via a fire truck, and there will be community caroling.
Hawthorne will hold "An American Christmas" beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday with arts, crafts, activities for the children and food booths. The parade will be held at 3 p.m.
Melrose will hold a Christmas parade at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11. The theme is ''Peace on Earth.'' There will be an Arts and Crafts Festival at Melrose Elementary School, SR 26/21, and the Melrose Bay Gallery will hold its annual Holiday Open House from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Keystone Heights is holding a Christmas parade at 6 p.m. Saturday. The theme is ''Festival of Lights.'' Immediately following the parade, there will be a tree-lighting ceremony and community caroling at the nature park across from City Hall.
On Friday night, downtown merchants will hold a special event featuring live music and sidewalk sales.
Instead of a grand marshal, the town will honor Clay Electric employees who worked around the clock in the aftermath of the hurricanes.
Lake Butler is planning a ''Christmas Parade and Celebration'' at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Starke will be hosting its third annual ''Country Christmas Craft Show'' from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at the fairgrounds. A parade in downtown Starke will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 11.
Chiefland will sponsor a ''Christmas Parade and Festival'' Saturday around the train depot at Trailhead Park on Highway 19 South. The parade begins at 3 p.m. at Chiefland High School.
Other events include caroling, refreshment stands, and, of course, Santa.
There will be a drop-off booth for Toys for Tots and for non-perishable foods. Near dusk, there will be a tree-lighting ceremony.
In Bell, there's the 24th annual Bell Christmas Parade and Crafts Sidewalk Sale from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The parade begins at 2 p.m. and Santa visits from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the train depot. There will be live entertainment, arts, crafts and food booths.
Williston invites residents to its ''Light Up Williston Celebration'' at 6 p.m. Friday. There will be a parade followed by entertainment at the Linear Park Pavilion.
This year's grand marshals will be the city of Williston employees who worked so heroically during hurricane season. Pictures with Santa as well as food and refreshments will be available.
The highlight of the evening will be the illumination of the Christmas lights.
Micanopy hosts ''Christmas in Micanopy'' at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10 at Micanopy Christian Fellowship. Eight area churches will take part in a holiday music festival.
In Gainesville The stage is set for the holidays in Gainesville, and that stage, it appears, is crammed with ballerinas, songs of discovery, horses and eight very peeved reindeer.
And, man, that's just the beginning.
As I write these words, a tattered yellow note clings to my desk outlining the coming weeks in arts and entertainment. It is packed; news is scrawled in corners and question marks are splattered across it like spilled globs of cocoa.
These festive question marks, of course, frame my professional credo as this newspaper's entertainment editor: "Holy $*#@! Who is going to cover all this?!!?"
In this issue and others to follow, we'll give it a shot in a holiday arts season that echoes with soul-quenching classics and the dysfunction I have come to expect on local stages.
So let's take a gander at some of the stage offerings:
  • Certainly the most intriguing dichotomy unravels at FantasyLand Theatrical Productions in Newberry. This is where you'll find the very dark comedy "Eight Reindeer Monologues," opening tonight, and the very happy family musical "A Seasonal Celebration," opening Friday.
    "The Eight Reindeer Monologues" comes from an off-off-Broadway show. The local version debuted last season in Newberry with its sordid tale of, ah, sexual harassment at the North Pole.
    "It really is just for adults," said Lowrie Fawley, who plays Vixon the accuser. Written by Jeff Goode, this play features a gay reindeer, a "sold-out-to-Hollywood reindeer," trial by the media and, Fawley said, echoes of Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky. The play runs Thursdays only through Dec. 16.
    "A Seasonal Celebration," on the other hand, is very family-friendly, a Disney-style musical revue that features students from Newberry and Buchholz high schools and a few adults. This musical runs Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 18.
  • At the new Performing Arts Center at P.K. Yonge, former New Yorker Sherwin Mackintosh (also a theater critic for The Sun) rolls his perspectives of Gainesville into an original musical called "Holiday Souvenirs," running today, Friday and Saturday. Backed by holiday music from gospel to Guaraldi, this story weaves through the lives of very diverse families in - notably - a Gainesville ablaze with real-life seasonal trappings.
    This musical is fueled by 80 PKY students, two horses, one beagle and real snow.
  • Director Tammy Meyers connected the musical series of vignettes known as "Songs for a New World," a work written by Jason Robert Brown and opening Friday night at the Gainesville Community Playhouse second stage location. That's a store space, for those not keeping track - temporary digs while the new Vam York Theatre is completed on GCP's existing lot along NW 16th Boulevard.
    But the smaller space is not exactly a liability here. With a show that revels in epiphanies and emotions, "Songs for a New World" depends on intimacy with its audience. "It's more of a black-box show," said Susan Christophy, one of nine cast members.
    "Songs for a New World" rings with a bit of the butterfly effect, Meyers said; one decision has a ripple effect on the next and so on. The show runs Wednesdays through Sundays through Dec. 12.
    And, as far as theater offerings with a seasonal twist this weekend, that's where my crumpled yellow outline ends. Of course, there is much more on the holiday entertainment front; I highly recommend combing through the holiday calendar.
    Oh, and Gallagher's in town next week, which has absolutely nothing to do with the holidays other than, well, a break from said holidays that is sure to include smashing stuff.
    Dave Schlenker can be reached at 374-5045 or scene@gvillesun.com.Holiday calendar From ballets to comedies to lighting the tree at Thornebrook Village, this region is ablaze with holiday traditions - and a heapin' helping of new offerings. A sampling of holiday events: "A TUNA CHRISTMAS": Holiday comedy returns to the Hippodrome State Theatre, 25 SE 2nd Place and runs through Dec. 19. Performances: 7:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets: $14-$27. Student tickets start at $5. (352-375-4477) "A CHRISTMAS CAROL": Dickens holiday classic runs Saturday-Dec. 19 at the Hippodrome State Theatre, 25 SE 2nd Place. Performances: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, 2 p.m. Saturdays. Note: 2 and 4 p.m. Dec. 11 and 18. Tickets: $14-$27. Student tickets start at $5. (352-375-4477) "THE EIGHT REINDEER MONOLOGUES": Dark Christmas comedy runs at 8 p.m. Thursdays, tonight-Dec. 16, at FantasyLand Theatrical Productions, Newberry Road. Tickets: $8 students and seniors, $10 general admission. (386-454-0972) "HOLIDAY SOUVENIRS": Original musical features holiday favorites and runs at 7 tonight, Friday and Saturday at The Performing Arts Center at P.K. Yonge, 1080 SW 11th St. Tickets: $9 in advance, $10 at the door.
    "MESSIAH" SING-ALONG: Come sing Handel's "Messiah" at 8 p.m. Friday with the Gainesville Civic Chorus at Highlands Presbyterian Church, NE 16th Avenue. Bring your Messiah score. Reception follows performance.
    WILLISTON CHRISTMAS PARADE: Annual event kicks off "2004 Light Up Williston Festivities" at 6 p.m. Friday, with refreshments at 5:30 near the Linear Park pavilion. Santa Claus will attend and be available for photo opportunities.
    "SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD": Musical runs Friday-Dec. 12 with performances at 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays at Gainesville Community Playhouse, Northwood Shopping Center at U.S. 441, north of State Road 121. Tickets: $10 at Omni Books. (352-376-4949) "A SEASONAL CELEBRATION": Music and dance are showcased in this family holiday production at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 3-18, at FantasyLand Theatrical Productions. Performances by local high school students. Tickets: $8 students and seniors, $10 general admission. (386-454-0972) "THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL": Gainesville Ballet Theatre presents the 27th annual production at 8 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 315 Hull Road. Tickets: $6-$15, available at the center's box office and (T). (352-392-ARTS) THE BOAR'S HEAD FESTIVAL: Medieval celebration of Christmas with a cast of 75 opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, with performances at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday at First Lutheran Church, 1801 NW 5th Ave. All will participate in the celebration. Free. Call (352) 376-2062 for reservations.
    POND LIGHTING: Suzuki players and the Danscompany of Gainesville highlight holiday celebration 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday at North Florida Regional Medical Center duck pond, Newberry Road. Radio personality Storm Roberts will be master of ceremonies. Free.
    CHRISTMAS BAZAAR: Christmas decorations, hand-crafted toys and games, original art, and themed baskets highlight event, starting with a preview party, 7-9 p.m. Friday at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, 100 NE 1st St. Donation: $5. Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, 12:15-2 p.m. Sunday. Free baby-sitting provided for the preview party. Lunch available 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.
    KIDS' COWBOY CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL: Ten stations of cattle and horse games highlight event running 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at UF's Horse Teaching Unit, SW 63rd Avenue. Cost: each child will pay $1, then 4 tickets for a dollar afterwords. Each station is one ticket. (352-870-3093) GAINESVILLE YOUTH CHORUS: Group performs at "Christmas in Historic Gainesville" at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Thomas Center, 302 NE 6th Ave. Chorus also performs at 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, at Performing Arts Center at P.K. Yonge, 1080 SW 11th St. Both concerts free.
    TREE LIGHTING AND OPEN HOUSE: Event featuring Santa, food and drawings runs 2-7 p.m. Saturday at Thornebrook Village Shopping Center, 2441 NW 43rd St. Entertainment begins at 2 and continues until 7; tree lighting is at 6 p.m.
    ART IN THE GARDEN: Evening of art and music at the Magnolia Plantation Bed and Breakfast, 309 SE 7th St., runs 6-9 p.m. Saturday. Free.
    A VERY MATHESON HOLIDAY: Tour of historic homes in the southeast historic district, an evening of art and a benefit dinner with concert runs 5:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday. "Singing Songs for Everyone" concert and dinner at 7 p.m. features Linda English-Holland and costs $40. Tickets: $10 for tour. (352-378-2280) BELL CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION: Annual arts and crafts sidewalk sale runs 8 a.m.-3 p.m. with parade at 2 p.m. and a visit from Santa running 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday. Live entertainment throughout the day. Take State Road 26 to Trenton, then north on U.S. 129 to Bell.
    HOLIDAY ARTS AND CRAFTS FAIR: Original art and craft sale runs 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday at United Church of Gainesville, 1624 NW 5th Ave.
    CHIEFLAND HOLIDAY CELEBRATION: A parade, refreshment booths, caroling, Santa and a tree-lighting ceremony highlight event at 4 p.m. Saturday. Parade participants meet at 3 p.m. at Chiefland High School and march down U.S. 19. Businesses on U.S. 19 are asked to light their properties, using white lights if possible. To enter parade call (352) 493-1849.
    LIGHTED CHRISTMAS PARADE: Annual event featuring 200 lighted floats and entries starts at dusk Saturday in McClenny. Open house follows parade at Baker County Heritage Park, South Louder Street. Tour of museums, talking Christmas tree and hayride highlight event.
    "HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS": Pet adoption weekend at the Oaks Mall runs 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 12-5 p.m. Sunday near Burdines and RTA. Gift-making table for children, face painting and "Florida snow" highlight event. Sponsored by Maddie's Pet Rescue Project of Alachua County.
    THE SIGHTS AND SOUNDS OF CHRISTMAS: Tour of homes runs 1-5 p.m. Sunday beginning at the Garden Club of St. Augustine, 184 San Marco Ave., St. Augustine. Tickets: $15. (904-471-2165) "A BRIGHT CHRISTMAS": Gainesville Community Band performs at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 315 Hull Road. Selections range from Brahms' "Blessed Are They" to carols to Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride." Free.
    "SOUNDS OF THE SEASON": UF ensembles and choirs perform traditional holiday songs and music at 3 and 6 p.m. Sunday in the University Auditorium, UF campus. Free. The 6 p.m. concert will be followed by a traditional walk by candlelight to UF's Christmas tree-lighting ceremony and singing of carols in front of the Reitz Union.
    "GLENDA SHARMAN CHRISTMAS TOUR OF HOMES": Homes tour in Baker County runs 2:30-6:30 Sunday. Admission: $10 advance, $15 at the door. For tickets and information call (904) 259-6261, ext. 115.
    ELIZABETHAN HOLIDAY FESTIVAL DINNER: Pageantry and live music with Musica Vera Consort runs Tuesday, Wednesday and Dec. 12 at Steve's Cafe Americain. Reservations: (352) 377-9337.
    SWEET NOTES: Musicians perform a Christmas concert at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 8, at Hospice, 4200 NW 90th Blvd., at 10:30 a.m., Dec. 10, at Best Western Gateway Grand, and at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 15, at the Atrium, 2431 NW 41st St.
    "ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE": Holiday farce set in the 1870s runs Dec. 9-19 at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, 619 S. Main St., Gainesville. Performances start at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $6 for children and students, $8 for adults. (352-375-1321) CHRISTMAS IN MICANOPY: Eight church choirs, carols, gospel music, banjo and fiddles highlight 10th anniversary of Micanopy celebration at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10, at Micanopy Christian Fellowship, corner of U.S. 441 and Tuscawilla Road (SE 165th Avenue).
    "CHRISTMAS ORATORIO": Willis Bodine Chorale and the Baroque Festival Orchestra perform Bach's work at 8 p.m. Dec. 10 and 11 at First Lutheran Church, 1801 NW 5th Ave. Parts I, ll and lll performed Friday; Parts IV, V and Vll on Saturday. Tickets: $28 adults, $20 seniors, $18 students at Omni Books and Book Gallery West. Tickets are for both days.
    CAROLING ON MAIN STREET: Sing along with carolers and musicians in downtown Alachua, 6-9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10. Event includes SoundStage Cloggers and Santa. Treats available. Free. (386-462-0555) "CINDERELLA": Danscompany of Gainesville performs holiday ballet at 2 and 8 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 315 Hull Road. Tickets: $10 at (T) or box office (352-392-2787).
    "THE MAGIC TOY SHOPPE": The Gainesville Harmony Show Chorus performs holiday songs at 7 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall, 4225 NW 34th St., Gainesville. Tickets: $10. (352-375-0638) FESTIVAL OF NINE LESSONS AND CAROLS: Choirs perform at 5 p.m. Dec. 12 at First Presbyterian, SW 2nd Avenue and 3rd Street. Community is invited to come sing and hear lessons and carols for Advent and Christmas. Free. Offering will be collected.
    LESSONS AND CAROLS SERVICE: Piano, flutes, brass and organ accompany singers of United Church of Gainesville for their 13th annual event Sunday, Dec. 12. Performances: 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. at the church, 1624 NW 5th Ave.
    CHRISTMAS INFERNO: KC and the Sunshine Band, the Village People and The Trammps perform at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13 at the O'Connell Center, UF campus. Tickets: $20-$30.
    "THE CRACKED NUT": "Nutcracker" spoof with dancing locals runs Dec. 16 at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 315 Hull Road.
    "THE NUTCRACKER": Dance Alive! performs classic Dec. 17-19 at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 315 Hull Road.
    SPECIAL CELEBRATION: The Suwannee Valley Players present a holiday celebration of carols, stories and food at 7 p.m. Dec. 18 at the Chief Theatre, 25 E. Park Ave., Chiefland. Free. (352-493-ARTS or e-mail SVPlayers@aol.com) CHRISTMAS TRAIN: Round-trip rides between Newberry and Iris run 10 a.m.-4 p.m. every hour Dec. 18-24 and 26-29. Santa will be available Dec. 18-24 only. Tickets: $10 adults, $8 children 10 and under. Locomotive rides $20 per person. All rides originate at the old Newberry station site, three blocks north of SR 26, Newberry. Look for the signs. (386-454-4659) DOWNTOWN COUNTDOWN: Rock into 2005 with reggae band Iration and Area Code on Dec. 31 at the Downtown Community Plaza, Gainesville. Giveaways, ice skating and food vendors highlight event. Free general seating. Cost for VIP reserve seating (includes food and favors) is $15 a seat or $75 for a table of six. (352-334-5064)
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