“Holly” illuminates the front lawn of the Murray Nelson Government Center following the grand lighting during the 13th annual Light Up Key Largo. DAVID KAY/Contributed

By Zack Woltanski

In spite of the rainy weather, more than 1.000 locals gathered on Nov. 19 at the Murray Nelson Government Center for the Key Largo Community Preservation Foundation’s 13th annual Light Up Key Largo event. The main attraction at this event, which is geared towards local families, was the lighting of “Holly,” a 10-year-old Christmas tree which sees itself refurbished every few years.

In the weeks prior to Light Up Key Largo, the tree, which saw its lights grow dimmer in each passing year, had its old ornaments and lights completely replaced. Now its lights glow brighter than ever before. 

Additionally, the festival had several dozen booths, including local vendors and activity tents. Local children could visit the ice skating rink, the craft tent (where they were invited to decorate cookies and make Christmas ornaments), or the library booth, where local librarians read them Christmas stories and gave out free books and library cards. Key Largo’s Mangrove Swamp Band played Christmas songs and carols. Santa also made a visit, and kids were invited to confide with him their Christmas wishes. Free hot dogs and hamburgers were provided for kids at the Upper Keys Marine Construction booth.

Light Up Key Largo has been with this community for more than a decade, during which it has substantially grown year after year. This year, it occurred much earlier than in the past — in the weekend before Thanksgiving — to introduce festival-goers to the spirit of the holidays. 

“I first organized Light Up Key Largo because I wanted a low-cost-to-free event for families for an old-timey Christmas get together,” said Dawn DeBrule, who organized Light Up Key Largo at its inception more than 10 years ago. “There is no entrance fee, and a family of four can come with twenty bucks and have a fun holiday Christmas experience.” 

She thanked the community for its generous help and involvement in supporting the fest year after year.