The quiet town of Mount Dora, Fla., will be anything but this weekend when this year’s huge Christmas lights display at Mount Dora Boating Center and Marina premieres for the benefit of Toys for Tots on Saturday and the horror flick “Crocodylus” makes its red-carpet premiere there on Sunday.
It will be the start of another spectacular Christmas display that occupies the entire marina and dealership property. This year, Joe Lewis and his family are teaming with the Marine Corps Reserves for a special Toys for Tots collection event in what is being called “A Night of Lights for Tykes.”
Toys for Tots distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy Christmas gifts. Since 1947 this incredible program has helped families in need, and this year’s Hurricane Irma has only heightened that need.
The boating center and marina is home to the largest private display of Christmas lights and decorations in central Florida. For the past 20 years literally thousands of families have come by car or boat each year to view the displays that blanket the 2-acre complex. This Saturday night the gates will be open for this year’s premiere light-up, allowing families to walk the grounds and see the displays up close.
Admission is one new unwrapped toy.
The displays boast more than a million LED lights of every shape, color and size, including lighted snowmen, reindeer, horses, sleighs, stars, angels and Nativity figures. Among the most popular displays are a 10-foot Frosty the Snowman, Santa’s Cruiser, merry-go-round, Ferris wheel and a 20-foot musical lighted Christmas tree. Many of the displays are backgrounds for family holiday photos. And all of the boating center and marina staff will be on hand to explain how the displays are created and help with family photos.
It takes weeks to put up all of the lights and build the displays. But it has become an iconic event for Mount Dora and a way the Lewis family is able to give back.
“We’re looking forward to a great night with the Marines at our Happy Holiday gate, collecting toys and welcoming guests,” Susan Lewis said. “We’re hoping to collect over 5,000 new unwrapped toys to help central Florida families this year. It would be a wonderful start to the Christmas season knowing we helped make their holiday a little brighter.”
Beware of ‘Crocodylus’
The movie crew was shooting the “canoe scene” on Lake Dora when something went wrong. Everyone on the set was already tense because a 12-foot human-devouring alligator, a DNA experiment gone awry thanks to a South Florida nuclear plant, was rumored to be hanging around the marina.
The teens in the canoe ignore calls to turn around. Panic on the shore starts to set in. They’re paddling straight at the “Devil’s Dip,” a fictional spot in the film about a mile out on the lake. What happens next? You’ll just have to see the movie. But I can reveal that an aggressive 12-foot gator is later captured on the waterfront — or so the story goes.
“Crocodylus” will premiere at the Mount Dora Community Building Sunday evening. Proceeds from the $10 tickets, available here or at the door, will go to local charities as a way of thanking the city for being the main movie set. About 75 percent of the film was shot there.
There’s more. Executive producer Michael McLaren promises a second movie that will be casting in mid-December and will begin shooting in January, completely in Mount Dora, which is dubbed Peaceful Creek in “Crocodylus.”
It will all make for a bright start to the Christmas season in central Florida.