NAPLES — It was all about the one-on-one with Santa for Peyton Busch, 4, and Riley Busch, 6, early Monday evening.
But the moment Third Street South’s 25-foot tree was lit and the warm Naples night became a winter wonderland the awed smiles’ of the small Atlanta residents said it all.
“It’s on your hair,” said Peyton with glee to her grandmother Marilyn Mamrick, 67, as snow flurries settled on the Naples resident’s head.
The girls along with their parents and grandparents were among the thousands of Collier County residents and visitors that kicked off the holiday season with the 34th annual Festival of Lights.
“It’s extremely exciting,” said Ron Mamrick, 67, of getting to share the night with his grandchildren. “It’s really enjoyable to have these moments with the family.”
The week-long event runs every night this week, except for Thanksgiving, and features music and entertainment.
And snow will be in the forecast all week, thanks to snow machines attached to light poles lining the street that go off every couple of hours to coat the side of the street.
Naples Mayor Bill Barnett flipped the switch for the 11th year in a row and said the event remains as exciting as ever.
“It’s just a fun night,” said Barnett before the event adding that the tree lighting ceremony is a great way to kick-off the holiday season.
Naples resident Jeanne Grimes agreed adding that Monday’s festivities offered a chance to bring friends to the annual event for the first time.
“It gets you in the holiday spirit, because you don’t normally have snow ...,” said Grimes. “So this gives you a little Christmas spirit to get you going.”
The group also lucked out on parking by finding a spot at St. Anne’s Catholic Church. Many of the attendees had to park several blocks away from the festivities, because all the available parking near Third Street South was already taken by 5 p.m.
And although the festival ends Saturday, Third Street South will be lit up through the end of the year.