With Halloween a distant memory and turkey leftovers finally gone, the holiday season shifts into full gear as the Village of Royal Palm Beach hosts its annual Winterfest celebration at Royal Palm Beach Commons Park on Saturday, Dec. 1.
The free event runs from 1 to 9 p.m., with the Santas on the Run 5K starting the day at 7:30 a.m.
“After the Fourth of July, this is our largest event of the year,” said Brandon Pendergrass, who has been planning Winterfest for months in his position as an event and facility manager for the village. “My favorite thing about this event is that there is something for every member of the family.”
Pendergrass noted that Royal Palm Beach expects up to 15,000 attendees for this popular event.
Festivities at Commons Park kick off with the second annual Santas on the Run 5K and Reindeer Dash 1K races, where proceeds go to Dogs to the Rescue, a local nonprofit organization that provides free training for PTSD service or comfort dogs for every firefighter, paramedic, police officer or critical nurse who needs one.
Advance registration includes a Santa suit or reindeer antlers. Race organizer Maria Gonzalez said that about 300 people raced last year and that anyone who wants to race this year should register at www.santasontherun.com or show up at Commons Park on race day by 7 a.m.
“This is our big annual fundraiser and, in addition to training service dogs, we will use some proceeds for the first time to provide food, beds, blankets and toys for dogs cooped up in the area’s animal shelters during the holidays,” Gonzalez said.
Winterfest officially gets off to a 1 p.m. start featuring music, a kids’ fun zone (all day bracelets are $10 per child), vendors, food trucks, roving entertainment, a children’s craft station and a gingerbread house competition. There will also be a free snow slide for children of all ages.
“We make the snow slide using real snow, where riders hop onto inner tubes and slide 40 feet down the berm onto the Great Lawn,” Pendergrass said. “The kids love it.”
Children as young as toddlers are able to slide down, as long as they are accompanied by an adult.
“There is something at Winterfest for the entire family,” said Denis Seibert, a Royal Palm Beach resident and vice chair of the Royal Palm Beach Recreation Advisory Board. “It’s a well-organized event that’s safe and fun, featuring the lighting of a holiday tree and even photos with Santa.”
This year, for the first time, there will be a station where kids can write letters to Santa featuring a “giant North Pole mailbox.” When asked what the village will do with the letters after the event, Pendergrass quickly replied, “Well, of course, we are going to mail them all to the North Pole.”
The highlight of the event is when Winterfest attendees gather around the village’s 28-foot tree at 6:15 p.m. when the lights get turned on and Santa Claus makes a grand entrance riding on a horse-drawn carriage. Then its free hot cocoa and cookies for everyone.
Starting at 6:30 p.m., kids get to visit with Santa free while parents snap photos and listen in on their children’s holiday wants and desires. Afterward, parents might choose to visit the many food trucks and craft vendors.
Free parking is available throughout the park. The village invites attendees to avoid traffic and come early. Organizers suggest arriving for the tree lighting before dark, ideally by 4 p.m., where kids can pass time in the play zone or partake in the numerous activities.
Attendees should expect traffic delays, especially after dark. Bring lawn chairs, sunscreen or sweaters, and a blanket for a day of fun for all ages.
For more information, visit www.royalpalmbeach.com.