PHOTOS: Naples Christmas Walk brings out the holiday spirit

Fifth Avenue South

Naples, FL

— Sleigh bells rang, were you listening? Down Fifth Avenue South, palm trees glistened. It was a beautiful sight. Everyone was happy on Thursday night. Walking in the Naples Christmas Walk.

“Who needs snow?” said Lisa Swirda, executive director of the Downtown Naples Association. “The Fifth Avenue Christmas Walk is a wonderland of light and talent.”

Hundreds of people strolled, danced, ate and sang up and down Fifth Avenue South during the 15th annual Christmas Walk on Thursday night.

“Where else can you go to celebrate Christmas with a golf shirt on?” said Pat Driscoll, who came with his wife, Barbara, and their friends.

“It’s wonderful,” said Barbara Driscoll. “It gets you into the (holiday) spirit.” Bands played oldies and love songs as couples danced in the middle of the road under the romantic glow of Christmas lights wrapped around palm trees.

Carmella and Fritz Rath, who have been coming to the Christmas Walk since it started, danced the jitterbug to “60-Minute Man” played by a 1950s and 1960s Doo-Wop group called The Uptown Express.

“The weather, the people, the music and all the fun we can have” keeps us coming back every year, said Carmella Rath, 72, who just celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary in August. “And we’re still dancing.”

The Christmas lights and the Oldies music are her favorite part of the Christmas Walk.

Carolers, dance groups, and harpists of all ages performed up and down the street.

Laura Lou Roth’s harp students have been performing in the Christmas Walk for the past 10 years.

“I like playing the melody,” said John Paul Stuart, 9. Stuart and his sister, Elena, started playing the harp less than two months ago because they were inspired by Arthur Adolph “Harpo” Marx, one of the Marx Brothers that played the harp during their comedic movies.

“It makes me feel good,” Elena, 12, said of playing the harp for an audience. “Somebody else might be inspired to play the harp too.”

Bill and Jean Harvey, who are originally from Cape Cod, Mass., took a picture of themselves in front of the 20-foot Christmas tree on display in Sugden Plaza and are planning on sending it to their friends back up North.

“It just gets you in the mood,” Jean Harvey said. “You know the lights, the people and the atmosphere brings on the holiday spirit.”

Allison Curry, 12, danced with her fellow dance team members from Dance Arts by Maria Inc. to traditional Christmas music in the middle of the intersection at Fifth Avenue South and Eighth Street South.

“It’s fun spreading Christmas cheer and doing what I love to do, which is dance,” Curry said.

Members of the Living Word Church of Naples made balloon animals and swords for children as their adult choir and youth group step dance team performed on stage.

“We’ve come here in the years past and we were hoping to come last week but it was rained out,” said Brad Bryant, who has been bringing his family for the past six years.

The Christmas Walk, which was originally scheduled for Dec. 3, was moved to Thursday night because of last week’s rainy weather.

Bryant, who works in a law office on Fifth Avenue South, appreciates that the street is closed down to car traffic during the festival.

“I like the food and the lights outside,” said Emma Bryant, 11.

E-mail Sarah Donovan at sdonovan2@gmail.com.

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