Back in 2002, Manatee County resident Ted Nowosad asked county commissioners if they could establish free bus tours of west Bradenton at holiday time when homes are decorated to the hilt and some whole streets glisten in holiday spirit.
Commissioners agreed with him that such tours would help out some Manatee seniors who may have no other way to see the displays, or just don’t want to drive at night.
And then, the Christmas Tour of Lights was born. This year it will return Friday and Saturday.
“Ted is not with us any more but the event was named in his honor in 2014,” said Ryan Suarez, planning manager with Manatee County Area Transit, which supplies tour buses in partnership with the School District of Manatee.
“We have 12 buses (that will run the routes) between MCAT and the school board. And it starts at State College of Florida,” said Jim Egbert, the county’s transit operations chief.
As in the past, tour riders are asked to meet at Building 29 of State College of Florida, 5840 26th St. W., Bradenton, no later than 6:15 p.m. on both tour nights. The buses will be departing at 6:30 p.m.
“Seating is limited and offered on a first-come, first-serve basis,” Egbert said.
Although the 90-minute tour is free, riders are asked to bring a non-perishable food item or unwrapped toy as their admission, Suarez said. The items will be collected by volunteers stationed near the buses.
The food will be donated to local social service networks and the toys will be provided to the Toys-for-Tots program, Suarez said.
The tour has been a big hit with between 1,500 and 2,000 people taking part every year, Suarez said.