Holiday fun enjoyed at Christmas in Downtown Vero Beach

VERO BEACH — Historic downtown Vero Beach was lit up, well – like a Christmas tree, for Christmas in Downtown at Downtown Friday. 

There were activities for young and old alike, from the vendors who lined 14th Avenue, hoping for some Black Friday shoppers, to the band Dreamer which entertained the festive holiday crowd.

The little ones particularly enjoyed the bounce house, and there were long lines of children waiting to have their faces painted.

Cute little three-year-old Zoe Burney chose a dragon because, as she said with a fierce growl, “Dragons blow fire!”

Later in the evening Bea Gardner, one of the originators of the Downtown Friday and Christmas in Downtown events, would be performing in the Vero Beach Theatre Guild production of Fiddler on the Roof, but she still made time to come to the event for a quick visit.

“We’ve got a curtain call at seven, but I couldn’t resist coming down here for a while.  I wanted to get myself hyped up,” laughed Gardner.

“I’ve probably only missed about three Downtown Friday’s in the last 16 years.  I remember we got Mayor Jay Smith to light the first Downtown Friday Christmas tree in 1994.”

Liz Diaz, who was crowned Miss Hibiscus 2010 this past April, and Mackenna Jones, daughter of Main Street Vero Beach Board President Peter Jones, were there to give Santa a helping hand.

As Miss Hibiscus 2010, Diaz has been busy volunteering as a Character Captain in the Winners Walk Tall program at Liberty Magnet School.

“I talk to second and third graders about self-confidence,” said Diaz, a student at Indian River State College.

The girls escorted Santa over to radio personality Hamp Elliott, who quizzed him on this year’s hottest must-have gifts, before giving the countdown for the official tree lighting.  Then it was off to the Santa House Gazebo where the always unflappable Big Red Guy posed for photo ops and visited with all the good little girls and boys.

A few adults were also hoping for a quick visit with Santa, including Roni Fuster who laughed and said, “The line was so long that I had to settle for a hand squeeze.”

The Salvation Army officially kicked off its Red Kettle Campaign at the event, aided this year by TD Bank as its lead Kettle Sponsor.

“It’s Christmas; that’s what we do.  We help people in need,” said John Corapi, Salvation Army IRC Director of Development.

Monies raised through the Christmastime Red Kettle Campaign helps to sustain Salvation Army programs throughout the year, including the Mobile Canteen, which delivers free meals to the homebound.

Main Street Vero Beach Executive Director Kathleen Prouty just started in the position in early November and said she was very pleased with the turnout.

She explained that her big-project goals are to find a way to reopen the historic Theatre, and to work with the City to make the downtown area more accessible.

“If we can figure out the right people and the right plan, it will put the focus on downtown,” said Prouty.  “Main Street is here for the merchants.” {igallery 307}

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