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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Celebration Pointe kicks off holiday season with tree lighting ceremony, live music

About 150 people gathered to see 40-foot tree illuminate

Coco (middle), Anthony (right) and Evelyn Buscemi, 4, stand in front of Celebration Pointe’s Christmas tree after Evelyn turned on the lights on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021.
Coco (middle), Anthony (right) and Evelyn Buscemi, 4, stand in front of Celebration Pointe’s Christmas tree after Evelyn turned on the lights on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021.

Celebration Pointe kicked off the holiday season with a tree lighting ceremony Friday evening. 

A 40-foot artificial tree decorated with ornaments, lights and a 4-foot star on top was the center of attention. The free event kicked off at 5:30 p.m. and lasted until 6:15 p.m.

The crowd of about 150 people gathered for the tree lighting, a performance excerpt of Cinderella by Danscompany of Gainesville and some opening remarks. Speakers included president of the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce Eric Godet, and Celebration Pointe marketing coordinator and event organizer Angela Chan.

Godet spoke to the crowd and encouraged them to explore Celebration Pointe and local businesses throughout the holidays. 

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Autumn Batie, 16, performs as Fairy Godmother as part of the preview of Danscompany's Cinderella production during the tree lighting event at Celebration Point on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021.

Haven Copeland, 17, who plays the role of Cinderella, took to the area in front of the tree with five other ballerinas to perform a variation from her dance company’s upcoming show. 

This was Copeland’s first holiday event of the season, and her family attended in support. One of her cousins even flew in from California to spend time with them.

“This celebration meant a lot to me to see the kids in the audience smile and being a part of the magic of the holidays,” Copeland said.

Dr. Brian Stover, a pediatric oncologist with UF Health Shands, and his patient “supergirl” Evelyn, 4, led the tree lighting with a countdown. When they reached the count of one, she flipped a lifesize light switch, turning on an array of lights and smiled with awe. From the tree to the surrounding decorations, Celebration Pointe came to light. 

Evelyn’s parents, Coco and Anthony Buscemi, were grateful to share the moment with their daughter. 

“We are just so happy to be able to come out and celebrate,” Anthony said. 

Following the tree lighting, ballerinas from Danscompany posed in a winter carriage float for pictures while Christmas music blasted from nearby speakers. The Prime Time band played at the Promenade stage until 9 p.m.

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A night of festivities for families and people of all ages drew a crowd of about 200 at the restaurants and seating around the stage by 6:30 p.m. Children danced in the grassy areas as others posed for pictures with giant ornament decorations surrounding the plaza.

Sweet smells from Kilwins dessert shop mixed with the movie theater popcorn scent from patrons nearby. A soft glow came from the firepit in the center of the plaza, where people huddled to keep warm as the night grew colder.  

This was Celebration Pointe’s third annual tree lighting ceremony. Chan said this year was different, following the COVID-19 pandemic, but the intentions were still the same. 

“We want this to bring out hope for a lot of people in the community,” Chan said. “We want to show them that this holiday season can be great.”

Serra Sowers is a contributing writer for The Alligator.

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