Florida Hospital Zephyrhills hosted its 29th annual “Lighting of the Trees” Christmas tree lighting event on Sunday, December 8, 2013. The event welcomed over 5,000 local residents to the front lawn of the hospital, where they were treated to a full day of festivities and celebration.
The event kicked off at 12:00 noon, where local civic groups, schools, clubs, churches and individuals arrived to decorate one of the 53 magnificent Christmas trees in front of the hospital. Reserved in advance, the trees represent each of the 50 states, an International tree to represent the world, a tree for the 12 provinces of Canada, and a “Support our Troops” tree.
During the decorating in the “circle of trees”, guests enjoyed musical entertainment, a live nativity scene, and activities for children including face painting, arts and crafts, and a visit from Santa, who arrived on a vintage fire truck. Attendees also received a special treat – skydivers from local Skydive City descended on the hospital grounds, one of them carrying an American flag.
The evening program started at 5:30, and featured a program chock-full of holiday spirit. Beginning with a welcome from the Hospital’s new CEO, Randy Surber, the event also featured an Invocation from Marceline Morais, the Pastor of Living Faith Church; an opportunity for the community to give back to the local faith-based community outreach organization, the Samaritan Project; the Christmas Story told by Mike Holm, Pastor of Calvary Chapel in Tampa; and a holiday concert featuring three distinctive musical vignettes: the Wesley Chapel Wind Ensemble, Lauren Harvey & Dean Johnson, and the Florida Hospital Zephyrhills Chorale, led by Dr. Marvin Robertson.
The program wrapped up with a Benediction by Doug Higgins, Florida Hospital Zephyrhills Chaplain, and then the mayor of the City of Zephyrhills, Daniel Burgess, conducted the official “Lighting of the Trees”, when all lights on the trees and the hospital were simultaneously illuminated, and then fireworks decorated the sky to the beat of the Hallelujah Chorus.
The annual event, now celebrating its twenty-ninth year, kicks off the holiday season for the community. Past year events have been attended by up to 5,000 residents of the local community. The event is free, and attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, blankets, family and friends to help usher in the holiday season.