’Tis the season

It’s the crowd.

Now, George Cook would be the first to admit that the lights — more than a million of them — transform Fishermen’s Village into a thing of holiday beauty at Christmastime. And he would readily acknowledge that the festive displays are eye-catching.

But for Cook, there’s nothing quite like marching through Fishermen’s Village while making a bagpipe wail as a member of the Lee County Pipes and Drums. The Fort Myers-based band will continue a long holiday tradition by performing at the Lighting of the Village on Nov. 17.

“It’s incredible,” said Cook, a major piper in the 30-member corps. “We parade the whole length, all the way down to Harpoon Harry’s, and people are lined up solid on both sides, cheering. They’re right on top of you.

“We’re always looking to perform for an audience. And the audience at Fishermen’s Village is just built in. It’s wonderful.”

The Lighting of the Village kicks off the Village’s Festival of Lights, in which the Punta Gorda restaurant and boutique shop destination is decked out in traditional, themed holiday décor and lights inside and outside. The festival runs through Dec. 31.

The Lighting of the Village opens at 5 p.m. with the arrival of Santa Claus in an antique fire truck provided by the Punta Gorda Fire Department. An official ribbon-cutting will take place at 5:30 p.m. Part of this year’s ribbon- cutting will include a performance by Charisma, the premiere touring vocal ensemble at Charlotte High.

“The decorations are meticulously chosen, orchestrated and installed,” said Kathy Burnam, marketing and events manager for Fishermen’s Village. “The result is a celebration of over a million lights and themed decorations during a festive evening that is the talk of the town all year long.”

The Village lights will explode into view as the ribbon is cut. Lee County Pipes and Drums Band will then parade through the Village behind Santa. The corps will follow up the parade with a performance in Center Court.

“We’ve been a band since 1998, and we do a number of big events,” Cook said. “This one ranks right up there.”

Other scheduled activities include live music from the Shane Duncan Band; juggling and balloon creations by Jeff the Juggler and face painting by Mary Rose Arciero.

Santa has consented to pose for photos, as has the Sugar Plum Fairy, aka Bob “Fig” Newton, who will make a special appearance.

Complimentary refreshments will be available courtesy of the Village’s merchants.

A live radio remote with Todd Matthews of Seaview Radio will take place.

Patrons are being asked to bring toilet paper, paper towels and bleach to be donated to Share the Blessings Ministry, an all-volunteer nonprofit benefiting those in need in Charlotte County. Their mission is to provide hygiene, cleaning and nonperishable food items that serve more than 500 individuals and 150 families each month. The organization’s critical need is for paper hygiene products.

“Lighting of the Village is a culmination of months of advance planning,” Burnam said. “It’s a labor of love for our team of Fishermen’s Village employees.”


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