Face painting and Who-hair are some of the attractions of the Whoville area at the Suwannee River Christmas Festival in Branford.

BRANFORD — Not only will Santa Claus visit southern Suwannee County on Saturday, but a mean, green friend is joining him.

The Suwannee River Christmas Festival on the Greenway in Branford will include visits from Santa Claus and the Grinch. The festival will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Greenway.

Heather McInnis, with the Rotary Club of Branford, which is running the event with the Greater Branford Community Association, said there will be around 40 vendors at the festival, most of which are local businesses or residents.

McInnis added that there will be additional food vendors attending the festival this year.

One of the favorite areas at last year’s festival was the Whoville Area. In addition to Grinch sightings, children were able to play games in Whoville as well as get their faces painted by members of the BHS Interact Club and girls were all dolled up with Who-hair.

It all returns.

“Everything was really great so we didn’t try to change it up too much,” McInnis said, adding there may even by a new addition to help boys get more into the Whoville fun.

“We may see if the boys can have some cool Who-hair this year too.”

A petting zoo and pony rides will also be available at the festival, as well as plenty of entertainment. Sadie Miller is slated to perform as well as the Booie Beach Band and the Harvesters.

While the festival itself doesn’t start until 10 a.m., the day’s events start earlier and run much later.

For the first time, the festivities will include the Whoville Hustle 5K and Fun Run. The run begins at 8 a.m.

And after the festival concludes at 4 p.m., the Keeping Christ in Christmas Parade — sponsored by the Branford Area Inter-Church Ministries — will begin at 6 p.m.

McInnis said there will also be a Buggy Bling Out contest as part of the parade in which golf carts, lawnmowers, ATVs, UTVs and side by sides will be judged on their decorations. The winner of the town’s community Christmas decorating contest will be announced at the festival too.

Following the parade, there is still more holiday spirit planned for the evening. Capital City Bank will be having Santa Claus then stop by the Jack Phillips Gazebo with Mrs. Claus for pictures.

Also, the Branford High FFA will be hosting Wooded Wonderland, a lights exhibit, at its forestry plot as well.

The trail of lights and hayride begins at 6:45 p.m. with hayrides leaving Jenkins Park every five minutes until the final departure at 8:45 p.m.

“We’re hoping people will come for the festival and stay for the parade and check out the FFA lights or Santa and Mrs. Claus at the gazebo,” McInnis said.

“It’s a full day in Branford.”

Stacy Young, Branford’s FFA advisor, said in addition to the journey through the lights display, the hayrides will stop — and allow people to get off and stay for as long as they’d like – at Santa’s workshop for photos with Santa and again at the Christmas village for live entertainment from FFA members as well as hot chocolate, cookies and roasted marshmallows. A live nativity scene will also be part of the display.

The event is free. Donations will be accepted.

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