TARPON SPRINGS — There are holiday events and then there’s Snow Place Like Tarpon Springs, a sprawling, five-hour family friendly extravaganza featuring a wide assortment of colorful sights and attractions including, but not limited to, snow slides, a lighted boat parade, giant bounce houses, falling “snow”, live music, running trains and, of course, Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

The Dec. 7 event, which spanned several blocks from Ring Avenue to Craig Park, drew thousands of revelers to the city’s historic downtown district for the annual fun filled holiday spectacle.

After a group of city officials, led by Mayor Chris Alahouzos, illuminated the towering Christmas tree at the intersection of Tarpon and Pinellas avenues, the mayor spoke about the event’s rich tradition.

“Snow Place is one of the biggest events in Tarpon Springs every year, and it looks like this could be the biggest one yet,” Alahouzos said after he and commissioners David Banther, Rea Sieber, Susan Kikta and Jacob Karr, among others, lit the tree located at the northeast corner of the Mother Meres parking lot.

“Every year it’s great to see the kids come out and enjoy the snow and the slides, and the parents enjoy the boat parade and all the vendors and businesses downtown,” the mayor said. “It’s one of the events that makes Tarpon Springs so special.”

A stroll from one end of the event to the other on a relatively chilly Friday evening revealed why Snow Place routinely draws crowds upwards of 20,000 people; from wide-eyed kids tossing fake snowballs at each other to Karr joyously skimming down the snow slide, the event simply oozes family holiday fun.

“It was a great event,” Karr said during the Dec. 11 City Commission meeting. “I had the opportunity to go down the ice sled tubing and almost took out the planter at the end. So, that was pretty fun to do.”

Karr also noted the illuminated boat parade was one of the biggest he’s ever seen, and indeed, that spectacle alone would’ve been a single holiday event in most communities.

As the Rusty Trumpet band serenaded the crowd with rhythm and blues and holiday classics, 40 watercrafts sporting varying layers of lights and decorations circled Spring Bayou, much to the delight of the huge crowd of spectators ringing the park.

Nearby, at the intersection of Tarpon Avenue and North Spring Boulevard, dozens of youngsters, and children at heart of all ages, lined up for the snow and bouncy slides while many frolicked in the fake flakes flying off the roof of the city’s new community redevelopment center.

“I love this event because it’s more geared towards kids,” resident Megan Jones said as she watched her three young children play in the ‘snow’. “I’m from North Carolina and they don’t have events like this up there. I have three kids living here and they begged me to come. And they’re loving it.”