Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

Tree lighting, concerts and local shopping fill St. Pete’s holiday weekend calendar

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete’s holiday display is going up this Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Mayor Rick Kriseman and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin will light up the city’s giant Christmas tree and various other holiday displays at Vinoy and North Straub Parks at 7 p.m.

Festivities start at 5 with live music from the St. Petersburg Community Band, Musicstars and Expressions Dance Studio. Blanket seating is available in the park. There will also be interactive games for kids as well as concessions.

The display is part of the city’s parks and recreation department. It will be free and open to the public until January 1.

The city now has available its Park Once service – a free shuttle taking people from downtown parking garages to various destinations including the holiday displays. Typically visitors have to pay to park in one of those garages, but as a promotion for the tree lighting ceremony parking in the Sundial and South Core Parking garages will be free from 5 p.m. until midnight.

The Park Once shuttle drops visitors off at any of five stops including the Central Avenue Arts District, Beach Drive and Vinoy Park.

Also happening this holiday weekend in St. Pete is the Gem, Jewelry and Bead Show running at the Coliseum Friday through Sunday. The exhibit featuring exhibits from all over the country runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

Admission to the event is $5. The exhibit will return to St. Pete again January 15-17.

And Shopapalooza Part II is also this weekend. Coinciding with Small Business Day, the event features unique gifts and some great stocking stuffers at a bargain from local vendors and artists. The event is Saturday at South Straub Park from 10 a.m. until dusk.

The Don’t Stop St. Pete Music and Arts Festival comes to the Grand Central District Saturday from 3 p.m. until 3 a.m. More than 30 regional and local musicians will be on hand to rock Central Avenue from the 1600 block West to 31st Street.

Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the event.

And finally, the Magic of Christmas featuring the New York Tenors is also Saturday. The show begins at 8 p.m.. Former ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons plays also at the Mahaffey Theater Sunday at 7 p.m. The Rock and Roll hall of famer is touring promoting his debut album.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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