Joyce Marie Taylor
For the last 20 years Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park has been showcasing their Festival of Lights, an event that draws thousands of visitors throughout the month of December to marvel at all the amazing Christmas light displays throughout the park.
To kick off the event each year, the park invites the sponsors to come out the evening before to get a sneak peek at the lights and to enjoy fun and fellowship, as well as partake of a wide assortment of delicious hors d’oeuvres. The theme for the sponsor’s reception was teddy bears and they were everywhere, big ones, small ones, and even edible ones.
Park Manager Michelle Waterman began the evening by thanking all the sponsors who made the event and the evening’s meal possible, including the White Springs Citizen’s Support Organization. Waterman also thanked the park staff for their hard work in setting up all the lights and the District 2 park staff for their support.
“Our staff began working on the festival in July and we’ve been working on the Festival of Lights ever since,” said Waterman. “Our sponsors and partners help to make this event what it is. The Citizen’s Support Organization is an asset to our park and they’re dedicated to preserving the folk life here in North Florida. The town of White Springs, the Hamilton County Tourist Development Council, and our local government agencies and land managers are great supporters of the park and work very closely to ensure that the visitors to White Springs want to come back again,” she added.
Waterman said because of the contributions they receive from all the sponsors, the park is able to keep the event at a low cost to visitors.
“Three dollars a person to come into a park and enjoy four hours of entertainment, and get free marshmallows, popcorn and hot cocoa,” Waterman began. “Where can you go for that?”
Once everyone finished eating, Waterman donned her animated, lighted Santa hat and, lo and behold, a special guest arrived by the name of Santa Claus, who brought Mrs. Claus along with him to greet the crowd and wish them a Merry Christmas.
With the back doors to the museum now open, everyone filed outside to begin exploring all the wonders of the lighted park, including the excitement of the Lake City Train Club, who already had their tracks and trains set up in the auditorium.
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