Light Up Ocala 101
Here is some “need to know” info about Ocala’s beloved holiday kickoff event.
File photo: Charlotte Williams, 3, enjoys the music as Audio Exchange performs during Light Up Ocala in the downtown Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Ocala,, Florida. Covid canceled the event last year so the crowd was large. [Alan Youngblood/Special to the Ocala Gazette]
If you have ever attended a Light Up Ocala event, you know that a slew of others will be there with you, eager to check out all the activities while everyone waits for the flip of the switch that will illuminate thousands of sparkling lights.
You also know that some city streets will be closed and that while you might have to walk a little way after parking, the trek will be worth it. You also can catch a shuttle ride from one of four locations, making it even easier to get there.
This will be the 38th annual event. It takes place all around the downtown square on Saturday, Nov. 19. Here are some basics for taking part in this beloved annual holiday tradition:
JUNIOR SUNSHINE PARADE
The parade begins at 4 p.m. at the corner of South Magnolia Avenue and East Fort King Street. It will make its way through downtown, going past the gazebo, up to Northeast First Street, then returning to Southeast First Avenue and East Fort King Street. The parade will include performances from local dance studios, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and a special appearance by Santa.
The theme for this year’s event is “Jingle all the Way.” There will be activities beginning at 4 p.m. at three entertainment zones throughout the downtown area with live music and performers and more than 100 vendors.
- Stage One, on the downtown square, is sponsored by HCA Florida Hospital and offer music by Audio Exchange from 4 to 8:30 p.m. There will be photo ops by the big holiday tree.
- Stage Two, at Citizens’ Circle, is sponsored by AdventHealth and will feature a variety of local dance and performance groups from 4 to 8:30 p.m. There will be photo ops with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
- The Midtown Street Party, sponsored by Wawa, will be at the corner of Northeast First Street and Northeast First Avenue and will feature a DJ, acrobatic variety show and Powerskip Shows from 4 to 8:45 p.m.
- Additional entertainment throughout the night includes the Punch and Judy puppet show at the corner of Fort King Street and Magnolia Avenue, Living Angels at Fort King Street and Southeast First Avenue, photo ops and kids’ zone at the parking lot on Northeast First Street between North Magnolia and Northeast First Avenue.
FLIPPING THE SWITCH
The event culminates with a special guest or two doing the honors of flipping a switch to turn on the thousands of strands of lights, many of which are draped overhead, which always elicits audible “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience. This happens, of course, when it gets good and dark so the sparkly show has even more of a crowd-pleasing impact.
Guests are encouraged to utilize four parking lots that will offer free shuttle rides:
- A shuttle will pick up guests at the Marion Technical Institute parking lot, 1614 SE Fort King St., and drop guests off at the intersection of Southeast Watula Avenue and Southeast Third Street. This shuttle will run approximately every 20 minutes between 3:30 and 9:30 p.m.
- A shuttle will pick up guests at the E.D. Croskey Recreation Center, 1510 NW Fourth St., and will drop guests off at the intersection of North Magnolia Avenue and Northeast Third Street. This shuttle will run approximately every 20 minutes between 3:30 and 9:30 p.m.
- A shuttle will pick up guests at the Ocala Skate Park, 517 NE Ninth St., and will drop guests off at the intersection of Northeast Watula Avenue and State Road 40. This shuttle will run approximately every 10 minutes between 3:30 and 9:30 p.m.
- A shuttle will pick up guests at the Discovery Center parking lot, 701 NE Sanchez Ave., and will drop guests off at the intersection of Northeast Watula Avenue and State Road 40. This shuttle will run approximately every 10 minutes between 3:30 and 9:30 p.m.