Six-year-old Lucy Sabatini has a special job at her house: Every night, she turns on the Christmas lights. So when the pressure was on — when hundreds of residents, the mayor, the sheriff and even Santa were watching — she was the obvious choice to flip the oversized switch at the Palm Coast Tree Lighting festival Nov. 27, at Town Center.
Lucy, who is the daughter of city employee Shannon Martin, said in a post-switch-flipping interview that she wants stuffed animals and slime for Christmas, but she won't play with them at the same time.
The city event, including the return of Santa's Village, also marked the first night of the Rotary Club's 16th-annual Fantasy Lights, inspired by Bill Butler. Dozens of displays light up the lake at Central Park from 6:30 to 9 nightly till Dec. 30.
The tree lighting ceremony, which was canceled last year due to the pandemic, symbolized a return to "normal life" for some residents.
"We come to the tree lighting every year," Mark Rivera said. "It's a tradition."
Rachel Harbeck, who has lived in Palm Coast for eight years, added, "It gives everybody a break from all the madness. It's good to see the community coming out of their shell and feeling normal again."
Another resident, Anthony, danced with his children in front of the tree, in matching plaid shirts. "We love it," he said, referring to the Fantasy Lights festival. "This is something we do every weekend. At this point, at my age, watching them be happy is what gives me joy in my life."
Kristi Phillips also attended the event with her family. "It means a lot to come back and see people not be so afraid."
The Thanksgiving weekend was memorable for Stephanie Matthews, who attended with her grandchildren, after missing out on seeing them last year due to the pandemic.
"We've been locked away for almost two years," she said. "It's wonderful to see the community here enjoying themselves."