SEBASTIAN – Nearly three-dozen businesses stayed open later than usual in Sebastian Friday night to offer the community food, fun and a bit of holiday cheer.
“It’s a blast,” said Doddie Fry, who works at Bay Street Optical, of participating in the Sebastian River Area Chamber of Commerce’s 22nd Annual Light Up Night.
Fry and Optician Valerie Brady both dressed as versions of Mrs. Claus and took the extra open hours to mix and mingle with guests.
“It’s a more relaxed atmosphere,” Fry said.
Down the road at Talk of the Town Hair Studio, a small crowd gathered to view the living nativity put on by Carousel Party Acres.
“This is great,” Sandy Mepham said while walking up to the scene, complete with a cow, a donkey and sheep.
She and her husband, Tom, have been going out to the area businesses during Light Up Night for the last five years to find out more about the companies.
“It’s a great way to meet local businesses,” she said.
Cindy Vance, owner of Carousel Party Acres, said this was the first time her crew has put together a living nativity for Light Up Night.
She said she was enjoying watching her students help out by performing the scene and getting the animals in place.
A bit farther off the main road, on Main Street, Santa and Mrs. Claus paid a visit to the Sebastian United Methodist Church.
Santa remained busy most the night with little ones taking turns sitting on his lap and telling him what they want for Christmas.
“It’s the most wonderful thing,” Mrs. Claus said while watching one child whisper in Santa’s ear.
She added that even a few adults succumbed to their inner-child and approached Santa.
“I don’t get jealous,” Mrs. Claus said, chuckling.
Youth Director Sandie Kunze has organized the church’s participation in Light Up Night over the last few years.
“It’s an opportunity to interact with the community,” she said of why United Methodist Church takes part.
Along with the Clauses, the church offered musical entertainment in the form of their Bell Choir and traditional choir.
“It’s just a fun thing to do,” Kunze said. “It’s a lot of work, but we pull together.”
The Sebastian Area Historical Society, too, took part in Light Up Night, their second time doing so.
“I’m surprised,” President George O’Neill said of the number of people who came in during the event.
O’Neill said that the organization decided to participate in the event for “exposure, I suppose.”
He explained that often he hears from visitors that they have lived in Sebastian for years and didn’t know that the Historical Society was here.
“We want to let them know, we’re here,” O’Neill said.
That’s part of the purpose of the Sebastian River Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual Light Up Night – to bring awareness to the city’s businesses and introduce those businesses to potential new customers.
Along with seeking new customers, businesses vied for one of four awards from the Chamber’s crop of anonymous judges. This year, due to one business’s creativity – an honorary award was also given.
Those winners are:
Best Traditional Decorations Outdoors: GWFC Sebastian River Jr. Woman’s Club
Best Traditional Decorations Indoors: Monnett Eye Center
Best Christmas Fantasy Outdoors: LaPorte Farms
Best Christmas Fantasy Indoors: Re/Max Crown Realty
Special Recognition for Creativity: Talk of the Town Hair Studio