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Friday, September 29, 2023

It may be 70 degrees out, but downtown Gainesville is getting ready to celebrate Christmas.

The annual Christmas-tree lighting at the Thomas Center will take place Saturday, as well as the Duck Pond Neighborhood Association's lighting of luminaries, or candles in paper bags.

Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan will light the 20-foot Christmas tree at the Thomas Center, said Constance Gesualdi, cultural affairs manager.

The event starts at 6 p.m., but guests are invited to stay until 8 p.m. to listen to music and see the other decorations at the Thomas Center, Gesualdi said.

Nearby, the Duckpond Neighborhood Association will put out 1,500 luminaries, said Carrie Westmark, who has helped coordinate the event for three years.

People are invited from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. to walk or drive through the luminaries, which will be set up around Roper Park and along Northeast Boulevard to Northwest Sixth Avenue.

This year will also mark the return of horse-drawn carriage rides, Westmark said.

"It's really fun," she said. "People walk up and down, and you see people you haven't seen in a while."

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