During the 14th through 16th centuries, the Aztecs called the poinsettia plants “Cuetlaxochitl,” and they used sap from the stems to control fevers. They also used the bright, red leaves to make red dye.

Because the plant did not tend to grow well in high altitudes, Montezuma, the last of the Aztec kings, later brought poinsettias by caravans into the area now known as Mexico City. Today, the beautiful red plant is one of the most recognizable symbols of the Christmas holiday in North America.

North Port’s Poinsettia Festival and Poinsettia Parade celebrate both the flower and the season, and will be held this year on Dec. 8, primarily at the City Center Campus.

Both the Parade and the Festival are authentic holiday celebrations, and include the participation of community groups and local organizations and businesses.

Jonathan Wheatley, Recreation Supervisor for the City of North Port, said that a different theme for the event is chosen every year.

“Each year, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board make a recommendation for the Parade theme, based on input from staff and the public,” he said. “This year’s Parade theme is ‘Holidays Around the World.’

Floats adorned with poinsettias, decorated vehicles and walking groups will start at Sylvania Avenue at 5 p.m. and follow the one-mile route south on Sumter Boulevard. The route will then turn east onto City Hall Boulevard, before making its way along the Front Green and ending at the Poinsettia Festival, on the grounds of the City Center Campus. Jolly St. Nick will be making a special appearance during the Parade, escorted by North Port Fire and Rescue.

The Festival begins at 4 p.m., lasts until 8:30 p.m. and includes a tree-lighting ceremony and loads of holiday entertainment, performances, food and various vendors.

Wheatley said that the family- friendly celebration always includes plenty of activities for the kids.

“Families will enjoy bounce houses, an obstacle course, a rock wall, face painting and more,” he said. “Additionally, the Home Depot Kids Workshop will be on site to help children build crafts.”

The performances and entertainers at the Festival are always a big attraction, and this year is no exception. The Main Stage, where most of the performances will take place, is located on the southern end of the City Center Campus.

“During the Festival, the band Maiden Cane will be performing on the Main Stage, as well as local school choirs from Toledo Blade Elementary, Imagine Schools and Lamarque Elementary,” Wheatley said. “The Lighting of the Tree will also take place on the Main Stage, following the Parade.”

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