“Look, there’s Snoopy flying his Sopwith Camel,” exclaims a boy. “I see Santa, he’s in that boat,” squeals his sister.
These kids and hundreds of other families overflow the Mt. Dora Boating Center’s parking lot and surrounding streets each December evening. But it’s not to visit the showroom. Rather, it’s to be immersed in the spirit of Christmas as illuminated by well over 1 million lights and displays that literally blanket the buildings, grounds and docks of this central Florida dealership.
For the Lewis family — Joe, Susan, Joey and Julia — this has little to do with selling boats, filling their marina or upping their pontoon rentals. It’s about giving back to their small central Florida town, something they’ve been doing now for 23 years.
Each year, the displays gets even bigger — so that it now takes work beginning in mid-October to get everything installed on time, not to mention the countless hours during the rest of the year needed to build new the displays, repair older ones and maintain all the light systems and materials.
It’s clearly Joe’s passion to come up with some new additions every year. For 2020, meet “Zane the Insane Wakeboarding Elf” who is being pulled behind a 1990 Sunbird Barletta 22 cruiser, all being watched by Snoopy in a Sopwith flying above that action!
Notably, Joe sold the Barletta to a customer who eventually donated back so it could be permanently illuminated as part of the Christmas effort.
The second major 2020 addition is a Snow Hill that boasts a pair of 6-foot snowmen accompanying good old Frosty standing 12 feet tall! Throughout the large property there’s everything from light-wrapped palm trees to animated reindeer, trumpeting angels, elves and so much more.
Mt. Dora is a small lakefront community known for its quaint downtown shops aimed at tourist-shoppers. While the area is also decorated, the Lewis family dealership and marina at the foot of Main Street is like the concert’s grand finale.
But it serves in another way, too. Selected nights are themed “Light Nite for Tikes” and families wishing to stroll the grounds are asked to bring a toy or give a $5 donation for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. It’s resulted in more than 5 large boxes of toys and over $1,000 donated.
Finally, not quite done yet, Joe has added still another new family event slated for this Saturday, Dec. 12. It’s called “On the Water Christmas Night.” It will be a boater’s float-in movie featuring Disney’s The Santa Clause. It’s free for all who anchor up before the giant screen at dusk.
It’s fitting, of course, that many dealers in our industry make efforts to give back at Christmas. Surely Mt. Dora Boating Center’s unique and long-standing commitment represents the best. Enjoy these pictures.