Christmas at the Destin Community Center - drive-thru style
More than 300 smiling faces passed through the Destin Community Center parking lot Thursday evening as the city brought a little Christmas to the community.
With the parking lot donned with lights, huge inflatable Christmas characters like Frosty and the Grinch, more than 100 cars packed with children passed through to catch a glimpse of Santa and Mrs. Claus.
"It's just wonderful," said one of the adults in the Robinson family vehicle as they passed through. The Robinson's had six children on board, ranging in age from 1 to 7.
"This is more lights than we've ever done," said Lisa Firth, city of Destin Parks and Recreation Director.
"It just flowed so easy and we put lights every where we could," she said.
Usually the city of Destin has a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the community center with various chorus groups and others around town participating, including Santa and Mrs. Claus to kick off the season.
Due to the coronavirus, city employees had to think outside the box a bit and did some brainstorming and came up with the drive-thru Christmas.
In addition to all the lights, the Parks and Recreation Department staff dressed in somewhat elf attire, manned about a half dozen stations around the parking lot. After the official lighting of the tree with Cyron Marler singing "Jingle Bells," the Christmas cheer began.
First stop was to pick up a Christmas stocking from Miss Destin Lauren Adams with a letter to Santa for the children to make a list and drop off at a later time. Next stop was to pick up a bag of goodies, then on to the next station where children were given small arts and craft packs.
Then cars rounded the corner and were hit with somewhat of a snow flurry and children were given a stuffed snowball.
Then on to the main event — Santa.
Santa in his sleigh had a few helpers, Mrs. Claus and elves, to help pass out stuffed animals to all the children.
And the children weren't shy.
"Santa's here," was heard time and time again from car windows as folks passed through the parking lot.
Kasen Rector, 4, was quick to describe a Hot Wheels track toy he wants for Christmas. "I want the one where the gator bites the car," he said.
Stanilav Houckin, 6, and his family were first in the line of cars that stretched down Stahlman Avenue to get into the parking lot. Stanilav, who was sporting a big smile and was missing a front tooth, said he was ready to see Santa.
"Thank you for doing this ... it's starting to feel a little more normal," one of the parents said as they passed by with their children.