SHADY HILLS — The word concourse means “coming together,” so it’s fitting that each year at this time the Concourse recreational and cultural complex on State Road 52 in Shady Hills brings the community together to celebrate the holidays.
Celebration of Lights: Nov. 26-Dec. 21
This year’s Christmas lights extravaganza promises to be bigger and better than ever thanks to some upgrades made last year.
The event is a driving course through the 200-acre wooded complex, with elaborate holiday light displays lining the entire 1.5-mile route. This year marks the seventh for the event, which typically draws thousands who load up their vehicles with friends and family to follow the winding trail illuminated with a million lights. The event is put on by The Concourse Council Inc., along with partners at Pasco Safety Town (an educational miniature town that teaches public safety to children at the Concourse site), Grand Concourse Railroad, West Pasco Sertoma and Pasco County Parks and Recreation. Proceeds from the event benefit local charities.
The Celebration of Lights kicks off the day after Thanksgiving and runs through Dec. 21. The first three weekends run Friday through Sunday, and the finale is five days, Dec. 17-21. Hours are 6-9 p.m. and the cost is $20 per carload. Once inside, cars can park and take the Grand Concourse Railroad to Safety Town for $3 per person. Passengers can disembark and walk the town, which is open for the first time in two years, said Bill Donati, railroad president. Afterward, the train brings passengers back to their cars to begin their driving tour, but not before making a stop at Santa’s Workshop, where kids collect some goodies.
“Everybody is going to want to visit Safety Town,” said Donati, adding all the buildings in the small-scale village will be elaborately decorated with lights.
As for the driving tour, more lights have been added to make it the “most spectacular presentation yet,” Donati said. He noted after last year’s event, underground power lines were installed to allow more lights and do away with cumbersome cords stretched above ground. “It’s a much bigger deal this year.”
Each evening will feature vendors, food and drinks, as well as rotating events in the Concourse pavilion, including games and activities for children.
“Everything this year is bigger and better,” said Donati.
Toys for Tots Kringle Jingle 5K Run/Walk: Dec. 4
This charitable event is set for the morning of Dec. 4 at the Concourse. It is held to raise awareness and money for this year’s Christmas toy drive for kids.
The course runs through the wooded countryside, over hills and trails, as well as paved roads. Vendors will be on hand and there will be a pancake breakfast available. There’s an after-party at the Concourse pavilion.
The cost per runner for the 5K is $30, and $20 for the 1-mile fun run if paid by Dec. 3. The gates open at 5:30 a.m. Racing begins at 7 a.m. Those attending are asked to consider bringing a wrapped gift to help kick off the toy drive. Go to www.facebook.com/kringlejinglerace for more information and to sign up.
The Concourse needs volunteers to help with train rides, Santa helpers and to stuff goodie bags for the Toys for Tots Kringle Jingle. There is pizza for volunteers. Email Liz@TheConcourse.org to help out.