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Christmas Festivals Dominate Weekend In Sarasota

From the Boat Parade to St. Armands Circle's Holiday Night of Lights, there's something for everyone this weekend.

1. If you ever wanted your sweet tea as sugary as it can be, head over to the Sugarcane Harvest on Saturday at Crowley Natural & Cultural History Center, 16405 Myakka Road, Sarasota.

The free event with Crowley admission lasts 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, includes sugar cane grinding, syrup making, taffy pulling, crafting, storytelling, barbecue and live music. A $2 donation for parking benefiting the Sarasota Military Academy is suggested.

Bands include Gordon Mac Martin, Dunn Deal, Camille Dupree & Broken Fetters, The Stone Family, Ernie Evans & The Florida State Bluegrass Band, Bradley & Brett Anderson and Brian Symonds.

Visit CrowleyFL.org for more information.

2. The 26th annual Boat Parade of Lights sails its way through Sarasota Bay Saturday with boats decked out in tropical Christmas displays.

The parade kicks off at 6 p.m. at City Island near the New Pass Bridge and makes its way south through Sarasota Bay, under the new Ringling Bridge and into the Island Park basin around 6:45 p.m.

Viewing areas are available around City Island, Centennial Park and Island Park, which is the most popular. Marina Jack will have a live broadcast of the event and host the parade judging there. Park in Bayfront Drive lot, Gulfstream Avenue and the Palm Avenue Parking Garage.

3. Pop off a frosty brew at the Florida Frostfest at Myakka River State Park from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday.

The annual festival is free with park admission and features more than 40 seasonal craft beers plus a snow hill for kids.  

Live music is organized and sponsored by Sarasota Music Scene. Sam Osborne plays an early set form 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., then the official event kicks off at 2 p.m. Other bands include Dylan Jon Wade, Justin Layman, Matt Frost Trio, Passerine, Buffalo Wizards and Villanova Junction will close out the night.

4. It's time to get weird with your crafts at the Atomic Holiday Bazaar. But before the bizarre bazaar begins Saturday, check out the Atomic Art Show.

The juried art show runs from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday at 529 Clothesline Gallery, 529 S. Pineapple Ave., in historic Burns Square. The event is free. 

The bazaar runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium and the Bay Front Room. Admission is $5 for adults; children 12 and under are free. (Visit Saturday, keep your ticket stub and come back Sunday for only $3.)

5. St. Armands Circle lights up for the holidays at 6 p.m. Friday with the Holiday Night of Lights.

The annual event kicks off the holiday season on the circle featuring a Christmas carol sing-a-long, a Santa Parade featuring the Wells Fargo stage coach and a tree lighting ceremony.

Kids can get their pictures with Santa throughout the night, too. Stores will have promotions during the evening, too. Restaurant reservations are recommended for Friday. Arrive very early, too, to avoid heavy traffic.

6. Check out a new art exhibit at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art that opens Friday night. Paolo Veronese: A Master and His Workshop in Renaissance Venice opens today in the Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing. 

The collection was partially inspired by the first painting bought by John Ringling when he decided to start an art museum—Veronese's The Rest on the Flight into Egypt. 

Visit ringling.org for hours and admission to the museum grounds.

7. Sarasota Jungle Gardens' Millions of Lights Magical Nights kicks off Friday from 6 to 9 p.m.

The Jungle Gardens' walkway is illuminated with Christmas lights with stop along the way with fire pits and live holiday music from the Cory Music Show, and of course, Santa Claus.

Magician Nathan Coe Marsh will also perform twice nightly, at 7 and 8 p.m.

The 11th annual Magical Nights runs 6 to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday and Dec. 14-24. Admission is $11 for adults and $6 for children 3-12. Prices do not include tax.  

8. The newly renovated Gompertz Theatre from Florida Studio Theatre is staging The Best of Enemies through Jan. 27. 

The play based on the book by Osha Gray Davidson finds its inspiration from a true story set in 1971 where a Ku Klux Klan ranking official and a black Civil Rights activist clash over desegregation of schools and yet overcome their differences.

Single tickets cost $19 to $36. For more information, visit floridastudiotheatre.org.

9. Classic children’s stories will get a modern-day makeover as the Sarasota High School Drama Guild presents “Twisted Fairy Tales” at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, in the SHS Auditorium.

The play offers updated whimsical versions of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Cinderella,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Beauty and the Beast” and 24 other beloved fairy tales.

A matinee performance also will be staged at 2 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students. Special performances for 1,200 elementary and middle school students will be held at 10 and 11:30 a.m. and at 1 p.m., Friday.  

10. International bereavement support group The Compassionate Friends hosts a Worldwide Candle Lighting each year to remember children who were gone too soon, and the Sarasota chapter will join in at 7 p.m. on Sunday. This is the 16th annual event for the Compassionate Friends.

The program lasts from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the South Gate Community Association Center, 3145 South Gate Circle. The admission is free and refreshments will be served. Larry Rifkin will be the master of ceremonies.

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