Lazarus Fernandez of Sarasota can't contain his Christmas spirit despite a recent hot December day.
"I'm a die-hard Christmas person," Fernandez said. "I put up my tree the day of Thanksgiving. I put up all my lights in my house the day of Thanksgiving and we make it a family event."
Fernandez, who runs Spotlight Events, is turning the Sarasota County Fairgrounds are going to look more like Santa's hometown, this weekend when Snow Fest Sarasota kicks off.
Snow Fest Sarasota starts Friday, Dec. 14, and runs through Sunday, Dec. 23 at the Fairgrounds. Admission is free, parking costs $5. The parking donation goes to The Lazarus Foundation's Kids Force program to help disadvantaged or critically ill children. Several games and activities charge a fee (see below).
Fernandez has lived in Sarasota his whole life, but he hasn't depraved himself of an old-fashioned northern winter during Christmastime. Folks here want that signal to start celebrating the holidays, but the thermometer has other ideas.
"Christmas in Florida as we all know, you have to have it in your heart to do it," Fernandez said. "It could be 80 degrees in December and we never know."
He just wants to bottle that frosty feeling of the season and bring it to his hometown.
"You see a lot of winter wonderlands around Florida but you don't actually see the actual effect," Fernandez told Patch. "You see candy canes and Santa Claus and some guy dressed up as a snowman, but you don't see any snow or really, any snow falling from the sky."
That's going to change in Sarasota.
"This entire area is going to be snow in the air as well as snow on the ground," Fernandez said. "We're going to have the largest snow slide in the state set up at 16-feet tall."
A smaller one, 8 feet tall, will be available for the kiddies to go snow tubing, too.
You actually might get sick of the snow just like a northerner by the time this festival is over. Four tons of snow will cover the festival's snow mountain daily, adding up to 40 tons of snow there. The snow slides will have 200 tons of snow per day, too.
But how do you actually get that much snow in the Sunshine State? Ski resort-grade snow blowers and snow makers.
There are only four in Florida with a lengthy waiting list, so Fernandez had to tap the Rockies. He ordered a blower truck from Colorado that is filled with Lee's Ice in Sarasota, chops up the ice into shavings and blows away.
"The fan adjusts to how far you want to blow it," he said. "It adjusts to how thin you want it in the air."
The biggest enemy to snow besides heat is rain, and Fernandez' crew is working overtime this week to catch up after Sarasota had its first measurable rainfall in a while this week. All should be transformed in a winter wonderland by the end of today.
Don't worry though—the snow will come and so will Santa Claus and his house, Frosty, Rudolph, a reindeer and anything else the North Pole and bring south.
There are all sorts of winter related activities going on with the full snow effect. Ice skating will be done by putting down a synthetic sheet that simulates the feel of skating on the ice, complete with snow blowing and snow on top of the rink. Five dollars gets you rental skates for 30 minutes to twirl around the miniature rink. Free ice shows will be presented as well.
Or how about a human snow globe race?
"It's a plastic dome filled with snow and they race each other," Fernandez said. That's free, too. If you get tired of the snow, there's small carnival rides, bounce houses to entertain the little ones.
With all the action, you're bound to get hungry. More than 50 vendors will be on hand, selling all sorts of food including hot chocolate and s'mores.
Sarasota's circus heritage will get into the holiday spirit when candy cane hula hoopers, gingerbread jugglers and Santa's Thrill Show will perform.
The Thrill Show features a Russian Swing trapeze act where elves will fly through the air landing on mats 100 feet away featuring The Flying Pages.
Just like real elves, kids can explore Santa's workshop.
"They can build toys, make toys, buy toys—little bit of everything," Fernandez said.
Snow Fest Sarasota
5 to 10 p.m. Monday-Friday
Noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Cost: Admission is Free; Parking $5 Donation To The Lazarus Foundation. Some games and rides charge.
Bounce House: $3
Bungee Trampoline: $3
Ice Skating Rink: $5 to rent skates for 30 minutes
Santa Pictures: $5
Snow Sledding, Snow Mountain, Giant Snow Slides: $10 All-Day Wristband
Free: Snow balls, Pictures with Rudolph and Frosty, Santa's Circus, Santa's Extravaganza, DJ Grinch, Santa's Thrill Show