For over 30 years now the island has celebrated the Christmas holidays and its many programs and events on the island through the hard work of a committee of volunteers known as Christmas Island Style.
The events have grown and include everything from Santa’s arrival in a helicopter to festive activities such as the canine holiday pet parade, holiday-decorated boats cruising the canals and the annual Christmas street parade.
However, the one event that has become one of the most anticipated during the Christmas holiday season is the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. More than 4,000 people descend upon Veterans Community Park for an evening of entertainment and fun with their neighbors and friends. It is possibly the largest single evening event held on the island, and those who come out for the first time swear they will never miss another.
“It really is amazing to see how the community comes together for this event,” Stan Niemczyk, a longtime member of the committee, said.
“It is amazing to see so many smiling faces on young and old alike as you gaze out on the crowd,” said Wanda Burson, the Christmas Island Style committee member in charge of booking the entertainment for the tree lighting ceremony.
The Christmas Island Style committee, headed by its chairman Steve “Stef” Stefanides, has been already planning for the 2017 season, but this year the group has begun to busily raise the funds to replace and re-purpose the 28 ft. tree which has been the centerpiece of that event.
“The tree itself was graciously donated to the community by the Italian American Club here on the island 15 years ago," Stefanides said. "Over the years it has seen some wear and tear and the time has come to re-purpose the tree and move it to a location where it will welcome residents and guests alike at a spot near the Jolly Bridge, thanks to their membership. We have enough branches that are in good condition that the old tree can take on a new role for a number of years to come."
The committee will be reaching out to the entire community as it looks to raise $50,000 to make the new tree a reality. Businesses, fraternal organizations, individuals and social clubs will all be contacted as the group raises the necessary funds.
“The new tree itself will be over 34 ft. in height while utilizing LED illumination," committee member Allyson Richards said. "This will really be something the whole community can be proud of."
Individuals may help make the tree a reality by donating to Christmas Island Style and sending their checks or money orders to Christmas Island Style, P.O. Box 1216, Marco Island, Florida 34146. The committee will be required to make a 50 percent deposit before July 1 to take advantage of the discount it has negotiated.