By LINDA CHION KENNEY
The annual Winthrop Christmas Tree Lighting has been expanded to include a holiday market designed to attract interests in and beyond the Greater Riverview area, including Tampa and east and south Hillsborough County.
Set to run 5 to 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 1, the Light Up Winthrop Holiday Market debuts in conjunction with the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Tampa Electric (TECO), an Emera company.
With 120 vendors expected, the holiday event gives a seasonal taste of the Winthrop Pop-Up Market, which runs 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the third Saturday of the month, October through May. This season in a new location, on Winthrop’s Sullivan Street, the outdoor market continues to showcase artists, makers, small businesses, restaurants and more.
The neotraditional Winthrop community, founded by John and Kay Sullivan, is near the Riverview/Brandon border, southeast of Bloomingdale Avenue and Providence Road.
This year’s expanded Christmas tree lighting event “will have food vendors as well,” said Cindy Manchesi, Winthrop’s vice president. “Area schools will again provide entertainment and Santa, as always, will be making an appearance.”
A portion of proceeds raised from each $20 a glass of hot wine purchased will benefit a worthy cause, said Manchesi, vice president of Winthrop.
“This is the first time we’ve expanded our tree lighting, and we aim for it to become the signature Christmas tree lighting event in our market,” Manchesi added. “The chamber was invited to participate because its members are the ones who know the South Hillsborough County market. We have the space to host all these people, and the chamber is a catalyst for our community.”
The tree lighting, as is the tradition, is hosted by the Sullivans and set for the common area. John Sullivan said it’s important to establish a more broad and grand tree lighting ceremony, especially in today’s times of online engagement.
“It’s like having a Zoom marriage,” John Sullivan said. “Two screens and everything remote, it just doesn’t work.”
Likewise, “I don’t think a Zoom Christmas is what we’re all looking for,” Sullivan added. “There’s a collective wisdom that people want to see each other. We’re all social beings.”
Manchesi can attest to that, given the success of the Winthrop Pop-Up Market, which Sullivan’s daughter Catherine launched with a Winthrop resident as a small, cozy offering about five years ago. Its founders being no longer able to continue the effort, Manchesi took over last year and raised the bar for vendor involvement.
“We’re getting at least 300 vendor applications for every market and now, in my second season, I’m sure we’ll be getting more than 1,000 visitors,” Manchesi said. “We try to change it up every Saturday we host the market, so it doesn’t get boring, and we don’t pick the same vendors all the time. We try to be fair in attracting vendors to our market.”
As for the Dec. 1 holiday market, Manchesi said chamber members will have spaces as well, and all vendors will be asked to light up their spaces for a deeper holiday glow.
As for tradition, expect another grand Christmas tree from Mike’s Christmas Trees, which has been selling trees in Winthrop for many years.
Manchesi said, “The tree this year will be fully decorated, with a star on top.” She added, “The hope is that the event itself becomes a great melting pot of residents and families from communities near and far.”
For more on the 2023-24 Winthrop Pop Up Market season, visit www.winthroppopupmarket.com/.