“Sleigh bells ring, are you listenin’? In the lane, snow is glistenin’…..walkin’ in a winter wonderland.”
Well, there were some sleigh bells ringing — on golf carts, that is, and many of the decorated carts were either covered in cotton or had other representations of snow. The Youth Group from the Sun City Center United Methodist Church even had a snow blower in the front of its Polar Express “railroad car” sending flakes into the air as the cart moved through the streets.
They weren’t in the “lane” though, they were on the streets of Sun City Center that surrounded the main Community Association complex. And as for Winter Wonderland, no — it was WinterFest, but hey — that’s close enough.
It was early morning Saturday, Dec. 6 and the temperature is said to have risen to more than 80 degrees.
Yet three categories — individuals, home owners and civic (and other) groups, and businesses were decorated and often dressed like they were in the western plains, which are currently going through a teen-temperature freeze and ice storm.
Yet everyone, even those dressed in Santa, Gingerbread Man, and Frosty the Snowman suits seemed to be in a happy holiday mood.
Decorated golf carts lined up to be judged and were watched by crowds of hundreds who had brought lawn chairs filling the streets along the parade route.
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies were on hand to field traffic and keep everyone safe, and they had marked off areas where you could not drive with yellow tape.
The parade was run for the second year by Parade Committee Chairman Dave Birkett. He always tries to think of something original. Last year, the parade was trying for the Guinness Book of World Records but The Villages continued to keep that honor.
This year, Birkett and his team came up with another idea — but they had to work with Minto Communities, Sun City Center’s developer, to accomplish it.
And accomplish it they did.
Minto’s Marketing Director Channa Calzone, based in Tampa, arranged for the company to donate $6,000 in prizes and also hold a WinterFest following the parade.
Birkett and Calzone have been working on and off since spring to pull off the event, which this year, was themed “Sights and Sounds of the Season.”
“We’re snowbirds,” Birkett said of himself and his wife Nancy, “so during the months we were gone we held meetings monthly by Skype.”
Birkett not only met regularly with Calzone, but with his 15-person committee.
One new thing this year was a $1,000 prize that could have been won by anyone in the parade. At the beginning, each contestant was given a cart number and a raffle ticket, and they tore the ticket in half and put half in a box. At the end there was a drawing and the winning ticket was matched to the person holding the other half with the same number: Patty Brandt.
“It was something anyone could have won,” said Birkitt. “Thanks to Minto giving the extra $1,000 we were able to do it.”
This year’s Grand Marshall was Charlie Belcher from Fox News and several government officials attended, including County Commissioners Al Higginbotham and Ken Hagan, Hillsborough County Relations Representative Wanda Sloan, and Jake Raburn of the Florida House of Representatives.
But none of it could have been accomplished had hundreds of people not spent weeks making decorations for the carts and costumes for themselves.
Ron and Linda Ringinback, in the individual category, even made a wooden soldier with moving parts. “We went up to JoAnn’s Fabrics and picked out all the materials, made the costume, the soldier and the cart decorations,” Ron said.
“It couldn’t have been done without Minto either,” Birkitt added.
Besides the $6,000 prize and raffle money, Minto threw a WinterFest using party planner Kacey Fulger to organize more than 30 vendors and six food vendors; a Pet Contest; South County’s own Kelly Emerson and his band; magician Mr. Holiday; Aggie’s Originals who did caricatures; Elvis impersonator Bill Lindsey; free massages; and a photo booth run by Peter and Alison Farnin, owner of Clik-Me Quik in Apollo Beach.
2013 SCC Golf Cart Parade Winners
1st Place Ron Ringenback $800
2nd place John and Laura O’Connor $300
3rd Place Stuart Maginnis $200
4th Place Joe and Rita Mealey $200
5th Place Joannie Frantz $200
6th Place Don Babair $200
Groups: Clubs, Service Organizations, HOAs/COAs/POAs
1st Place Portsmouth Condo Assoc. $800
2nd Place Gloucester $300
3rd Place Wedgewood II $200
1st Place Bay Services Corporation $800
2nd Place Palm Gardens $300
3rd Place Gulf Coast Insurance Group $200
Best in Show Ron Ringenback $500
$1000 Raffle Winner: Patty Brandt