In Photos: Gainesville Starts Christmas Season With Lights, Santa

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Two holiday events were held in Gainesville over the weekend: the 27th annual Pond Lighting Festival and the Christmas tree lighting at the Thomas Center.

27th Annual Pond Lighting Festival

About 80,000 lights were switched on Friday to kick off the 27th Annual Pond Lighting Festival, hosted by North Florida Regional Medical Center. Proceeds from the festival will benefit the charity Toys-for-Tots.

The evening began with performances by the UF Brass Ensemble, Gainesville Ballet Theatre and the Buchholz Choir. Later, Storm Roberts from WKTK 98.5 counted down the synchronized lighting around the hospital’s duck pond.

Other activities included displays of arts and crafts, sled rides down artificial snow, cookies and hot cocoa, and photographs with Santa Claus.

WKTK's Storm Roberts does an enthusiastic countdown with everyone, Friday night, before all 80,000 lights across Duck Pond turn on. (photo by Visshaael Patel)
WKTK’s Storm Roberts (left) helps count down to the 80,000 lights around North Florida Regional Medical Center being turned on. (Visshaael Patel/WUFT News)


A display of 80,000 lights and dozens of famous figures light up Duck Pond for the 27th Annual Pond Lighting Festival hosted by the North Florida Regional Medical Center Friday night. (photo by Visshaael Patel)
The display of 80,000 lights and dozens of Christmas figures light up the duck pond Friday. (Visshaael Patel/WUFT News)


Within the face painting tent, a North Florida Regional Medical Center volunteer paints a snowman on a young girl's cheek at the Pond Lighting Festival Friday night. (photo by Visshaael Patel)
A North Florida Regional Medical Center volunteer paints a snowman on a young girl’s cheek at the festival Friday night. (Visshaael Patel/WUFT News)


A woman and child slide down artificial snow Friday night at the festival. (Visshaael Patel/WUFT News)


Children pose with the Grinch and Frosty the Snowman at Friday’s event. (Visshaael Patel/WUFT News)

Thomas Center’s Tree Lighting

The Thomas Center was filled with holiday spirit on Saturday as families and kids gathered to watch the center’s annual Christmas tree lighting.

The event began with the tree lighting by Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe. Carol performances by the Singers of the Reformation and the Gainesville Harmony Chorus followed.

Visitors were able to go through the halls of the Thomas Center and read up on the history of the building and admire local artwork.

Santa showed up with many eager children waiting to meet him. Milk and cookies were served, and horse-drawn wagon rides were provided by the Duckpond Neighborhood Association.

Visitors watch as the Gainesville Harmony Chorus perform carols at the Thomas Center’s Christmas tree lighting event Saturday. (Celeste Cardone/ WUFT News)


Santa hands a football to Ethan Reno and his older brother, Cameron. (Celeste Cardone/ WUFT News)


The Singers of the Reformation perform carols for visitors. (Celeste Cardone/ WUFT News)


Nick Utley and his son, Otis, watch the Singers of the Reformation perform. (Celeste Cardone/ WUFT News)


About Visshaael Patel

Visshaael is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing

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