LAKEWOOD RANCH -- When the holiday hoopla begins, Santa Claus will make his grand entrance on Main Street in a bedazzled carriage drawn by white horses.
Santa's 6 p.m. arrival Friday will kick off Holidays Around the Ranch, Lakewood Ranch's annual holiday festival.
"He'll come galloping down in horse and carriage, he'll circle around the tree and then go to the area for photos with Santa," said Lori Basilone, director of Lakewood Ranch Community Activities, the group responsible for putting on the event.
Nearly 30 members of the Harvest United Methodist Church choir will sing traditional carols around the fountain before the 6:30 p.m. Christmas tree lighting.
The choir has been preparing Christmas music since September, said Phil Yates, assistant choir director at the church.
"We do a lot of singing this time of year, mostly at the church," he said. "We prepare as many as eight or nine different pieces for the season."
Youngsters can decorate cookies, make candy cane ornaments, take a train ride and skate on the acrylic rink.
"It's always exciting for children in Florida to come out and give skating a shot," Basilone said.
The free event is expected to draw nearly 2,500 people. Food vendors will be onsite selling holiday treats such as eggnog and hot cocoa.
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.