Outside the summer sun was setting over the glistening bay behind Ivy Club in Dewey Beach. But inside Santa was spreading some early holiday cheer for 17 happy nonprofit organizations, and more than 100 of their community supporters.
"We have a lot to celebrate," said John Snow, president of Festival of Cheer Inc., and host of Christmas in July July 31. While invited guests mingled with Santa, the lively Christmas tunes reminded everyone that Winter WonderFEST and the holidays are four months away. "It's our second year and Winter WonderFEST is going to be bigger and brighter, with more family-fun activities - all designed to support deserving charitable organizations right here in Sussex County."
To prove his point, the evening's Christmas in July event included a presentation of over $100,000 in community grant awards from Festival of Cheer to 17 nonprofit groups dedicated to serving Sussex County. Snow reminded the audience that all money raised through Winter WonderFEST activities stays in Sussex County to create a brighter future for residents and visitors alike. "It's our sponsors, our volunteers and such a caring community that makes it all possible - my thanks to each one of you!" he added.
"We're already on our way to creating a spectacular second year. Much bigger! Much brighter!" said Peter Briccotto, Winter WonderFEST producer and emcee for the evening's celebration. "We listened to all the community feedback from our first year. We learned a lot, and are committed to making this second year even more exciting. There'll be more lighting displays for the Light Spectacular holiday show in Cape Henlopen State Park, plus an exciting new route through the park."
"The Christmas Village on the Lewes Ferry Terminal grounds will include a new ice skating rink, a real one in addition to our i-rink for smaller children. There will also be a new hospitality lodge and nightly professional entertainment," added Briccotto, who indicated that complete details and added events will be released in the coming weeks, and encouraged everyone to mark their calendars for Winter WonderFEST's grand opening Nov. 17.
Recipients of the community grants ranging from $1,000 to $28,000 are all Sussex County organizations which offer a wide variety of charitable services throughout southern Delaware. Included among them are: Friends of Cape Henlopen, Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation (CHEF), Beebe Medical Foundation, Boys & Girls Club, CAMP Rehoboth, Cancer Support Community, Children's Beach House, Clear Space Productions, Friends of Trap Pond, Harry K Foundation, Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, La Red Health Center, Lewes Parks Commission, Lewes Public Library, Meals on Wheels Lewes-Rehoboth, Milton Little League and Rehoboth Art League.
Winter WonderFEST 2017 will be open Nov. 17 through Dec. 31, culminating with a special New Year's Eve community celebration. Briccotto notes that this year both the Christmas Village and the Light Spectacular show will be open on the same dates and times.