By LOIS KINDLE
Here’s a news flash: Santa will be at the Firehouse Cultural Center next week for Christmas in July at the Firehouse, a fun-filled market for folks of all ages. Admission is free.
“This is my seventh year of doing Christmas in July,” said Jennifer McCafferty, owner of Jen’s Market. “Until this year, it was held in Sun City Center, but we outgrew the facility and wanted a broader audience to include children. Moving to the Firehouse Cultural Center was an opportunity to have a larger venue and benefit its scholarship fund as well.”
The event will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and include more than 40 vendors, some inside the Firehouse, some inside the Firehouse Studio and others outdoors in the parking lot. It will feature Santa, of course, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; a mimosa brunch bar sponsored by A Journey to Harmony Physical Therapy from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.; and Jen’s famous Christmas Coladas, compliments of Jennifer McCafferty (while supplies last) at 11 a.m. Bring your own camera to take photos of Santa, who will be seated in front of the Elf Village backdrop.
There will be plenty of all-day activities for children. Face-painting by Ruskin artist Annalisa Lewis; a kids’ crafting area sponsored by Macaroni Kids and the Wee Boutique; and kid vendors, who will sell their handmade crafts (no food or drinks). There’s still time to participate at no charge by emailing McCafferty at email@example.com.
Food vendors will sell everything from Italian sausages, hamburgers, hot dogs and rolled ice cream to Thai spring rolls and rice bowls with chicken or veggies, shaved ice and flavored teas. Tables will be set up on the studio porch for dining.
And visitors wanting to shop early for Christmas gifts will find plenty of variety in the vendors’ offerings: Handmade soaps, jams and dog bandanas, treats and clothes; local raw honey; jewelry; casual wear; embroidered towels, woodworking; essential oils; fresh eggs and produce by Farmer Pete; and fruit wines by the Sparacia Witherell Family Winery in Brooksville. Chuck Bollinger will offer Create Your Own Sports Photo and Farmer Pete will sell Stars of Yesteryear Circus art.
“This is a great opportunity for us to showcase our property, our new Firehouse Studio building and to promote our new programming for the rest of the year,” said Beth Stein, event and operations coordinator. “And our new partnership with Jen’s Market will enable more kids to attend our summer camp programs through our scholarship fund.”
This summer, there are two remaining sessions, Robotics I (July 23 to 27) and Robotics II (July 30 to Aug. 3). Call 813-645-7651 for details.
The Firehouse Cultural Center is at 101 First St. N.E. Ruskin. Plenty of free parking will be available for the event.