33rd year for Plant City’s Christmas Lane, bigger and better than ever

PLANT CITY, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s a holiday favorite for a whole lot of folks in the Bay Area.

Christmas Lane, once on a family farm in Dover, has now taken root at the Florida Strawberry Festival Agricultural Center this holiday season.

The doors opened to the public tonight at 6 p.m. It’s a winter wonderland for folks young and old.

This is the 33rd year this event is being held and this year it’s the largest covering 67,000 square feet of space. There are not only lots of lights but also carnival rides, live entertainment, and concession stands.

It’s a huge display of lights centered around the 35-foot tall Christmas tree adorned with countless ornaments. The nativity scene also plays a pivotal role as well as Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer. It also includes lit up trails with skiers for skiing.

It’s the story of a young boy, Lane Wetherington, who grew up into an adult and is now sharing this display of lights with all of Tampa Bay.

“As a child, I was fascinated with lighting and electricity.  It was always something I was into when I was little.  I was always getting shocked because I was always messing with something I shouldn’t have been messing with.  But the fascination with lights and lighting is a big part of it,” Lane told News Channel 8.

So how many lights are there? Lane said there’s just so many he can’t even count.  As far as the power bill, it comes to about $10,000 and Lane says it’s worth every penny.

Lane’s tradition has now become a yearly ritual for countless others.

“It’s about family,” said Verna McKelvin of Plant City who comes every year to visit with her 2 young grandchildren. “It’s about Christmas. It’s about old tradition. It’s not commercialized for us.”

Her husband agrees. “If you enjoy Christmas, if you enjoy the whole theme, the scenery, and everything, it’s great,” said Leon McKelvin. “It’s great.”

Their grandchildren, 7-year-old Olivia and 10-year-old Anna, come from Alabama to see them and Christmas Lane every year.

“Spending time with my Grandma and Popo and just seeing Santa Claus and all that,” Olivia told WFLA News Channel 8.

We asked Anna what she thought about the 35-foot tall Christmas tree.  “It’s really cool,” she replied. “I’ve never seen a Christmas tree that big.”

When: 6 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 6 to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday from Friday, Nov. 25, to Thursday, Dec. 15; 6 to 10 p.m. nightly from Friday, Dec. 16, through Sunday, Dec. 25. 

Where: Charlie Grimes Family Agriculture Center, 2508 W. Oak Ave.

Cost: $5 for adults; $3 for children ages 4 to 12; free for children under 3. Parking is free and can be accessed from Lemon and Oak streets; free admission Mondays for current and former military; free admission Tuesdays for teachers and school staff members; free admission Wednesdays for law enforcement members. 

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