The festivities began just after 5:00 pm (scheduled for 5:30), but the first child was there well in advance. “I’m the first one in line!” he proudly declared, sitting down at the foot of the slide’s ladder and staking his claim as the first to take a turn on the toboggan. Within minutes, a long line of children had formed behind him, excitedly clamoring for a turn.
It was a cold evening by Florida standards, yet not quite cold enough for natural snow, so tons and tons of it were trucked in from Gainesville. It was a sight seldom seen, with children dressed in winter coats throwing snowballs at each other in 60 degree weather on Clearwater’s palm tree lined Cleveland Street.
Originally scheduled for Friday the 4th, the event had been postponed due to rainstorms, but that did not seem to affect the turnout. The crowds were massive, with the children congregating around the snow slide and other entertainment drawing crowds up and down the 500 and 600 blocks of Cleveland Street and in Station Square Park. Food vendors lining the streets filled the air with enticing aromas, while street performers awed the crowd with everything from fire breathing stunts to juggling acts on stilts. The Clearwater Academy Choir delighted spectators with the songs of the season. Radio Disney had children’s games and entertainment in the park, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders made an appearance. The Artists in Action Carolers led by Joyce White walked the street, spreading Christmas cheer and goodwill.
At 7:30 p.m., the 25 foot giant Christmas tree in Station Square Park was lit with the help of Vice Mayor Paul Gibson, accompanied by the Clearwater Academy Choir and Santa Claus himself.
Miracle on Cleveland Street is put on by the Clearwater Downtown Partnership (CDP), a group “comprised of downtown property owners, developers, concerned citizens and civic groups” with the purpose to “fund and implement projects that will assist the public and private sectors in creating a downtown district that becomes a regional destination.” The CDP is responsible for Clearwater’s 4th Friday series, creating a monthly “party on the street.” Last year’s inaugural Miracle on Cleveland Street served as the pilot for the popular series, of which this year’s event is a part. For more information on the CDP, visit www.clwdp.org.