A perfect night drew a New York-size crowd to Mizner Park for the city’s annual tree lighting festival.
This was the first year the festival spilled out into Mizner Park from the amphitheater. So families pushing strollers were already lined up for the snowman bounce house and snow globe by 5:45 p.m.
By 6 p.m. Santa had come and gone, and the amphitheater stage came alive with holiday acts.
People sat shoulder to shoulder on the lawn to watch the show and children ran free. The ceremonial tree lighting at a count of three was followed by fireworks. The open field next door was bright with free carnival rides.
A crowd also gathered at the south end of Mizner Park for the center’s own musical iTree.
The center had food tents lining the streets in front of the shops and restaurants. The city confined its food vendors to the amphitheater and field next door.
Like most people, Rich Kasser parked off-site and walked. The city ran shuttles from four parking sites. “I’ve been to the street parade, but this was the first time I’ve been to this,” he said. “It was something to do with the boys.”
The city predicted 20,000 spectators, twice the usual draw. But it was clear there were many more people than that.
By 8 p.m., Christina Isabal and her two kids were headed home, even though the event lasted until 9:30 p.m.
“There’s a lot of people. Super crowded,” she said. “Nice atmosphere, but we ended up doing nothing. The lines were just too long. “
By Marci Shatzman