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Winter fest draws community together

Samson Oceanfront Park was transformed with twinkling lights for the annual Winterfest celebration.

BY RODOLFO ROMAN
SPECIAL TO THE MIAMI HERALD
Wind and rain didn’t dampen the holiday spirit in Sunny Isles Beach.
Despite wicked weather, hundreds of residents and guests turned out for the annual Sunny Isles Beach Winterfest at the 70,000-square-foot Samson Oceanfront Park, 17425 Collins Ave., on Dec. 5.
“It’s uplifting to get people in the spirit of the holidays,” said Mayor Norman Edelcup after leading a countdown to flip the switch on thousands of twinkling lights in the park.
The park was transformed into a winter wonderland with the palm trees lining the perimeter of the open space wrapped with lights. Twinkling snowflakes also decorated light poles.
The lights will be on display at the park through January.
The event also featured inflatable bounce houses, slides and obstacle courses for children.
Sunny Isles Beach resident Jack Gold said the holiday affair offers a great ambience. “It creates a tremendous family environment,” said Gold, who waited in line with his 4-year-old son, Eliezer Gold, to ride an inflatable slide. “It’s a great place for kids.”
Guests were welcomed by old holiday favorites like the city’s eight-foot-tall Peace on Earth globe, which is set in the middle of the park. The mainstay metal sculpture features all seven continents glowing with lights.
For the first time, visitors could ice skate: A portable synthetic-floor rink was set up on the north end of the park. The city secured a private sponsor to help pay for the new attraction.
An excited Nicole Raz, 5, skated for the first time.
“It’s fun because I like sliding,” she said.
Highland Oaks Middle School student Julia Gnip said the faux ice rink was surprisingly challenging.
“It’s fun because you are here with your friends,” said Julia, who ice skates as a hobby. “But it’s a lot tougher because it’s not like real ice skating. Here you are basically walking.”
Grown-ups weren’t left out of the celebration. Classic rock band Viva had parents dancing on a makeshift dance floor in front of the stage. The band opened up with Jingle Bell Rock, which led to the entrance of Santa Claus riding on a Sunny Isles Beach ocean rescue truck.
Soon after, children and parents lined up to take pictures with jolly ol’ Saint Nick.
Sunny Isles Beach resident Aaron Herman said the event lets residents of all ages come together during the holidays.
“It’s important because up until recently we didn’t have a family oriented community,” said Herman, who was joined by his family and neighbors. “We had a lot of high rises going up but now we have a park activity and it allows families to come out.”
Despite the current budget woes, Edelcup says the city managed to find money a year ago so the event could move forward. “It’s important that we maintain these traditions and celebrate the holidays, even though the economy isn’t the greatest,” he said. “We still want to be in a positive mood.”

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