SeaWorld Orlando provides “Holiday Splash” to hundreds of Children in Central Florida
More than 1,000 children across Central Florida were invited to a special evening at SeaWorld Orlando last Friday evening to enjoy a ‘first look’ of SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration. A number of charitable organization that serve needy, ‘at-risk’ or disadvantaged youth were invited to bring children they help to SeaWorld. I work with Children’s Home Society of Florida (CHS, www.chsfl.org) and SeaWorld invited a few hundred CHS children in foster care to enjoy this fantastic evening free of charge.
The SeaWorld “Holiday Splash” featured meet and greet photo opportunities with SeaWorld characters, dinner and four shows featured during SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration. The children were greeted by more than 100 friendly SeaWorld employees volunteering their time. The Sea Harbor Pavilions area hosted an array of characters including Elmo, Cookie Monster and Count from A Sesame Street Christmas. In addition, up-close experiences were offered with a variety of animals including an American bald eagle, armadillo, parrot and others. Holiday music helped provide a festive atmosphere. And of course, Mr. and Mrs. Santa Clause along with Santa Shamu were present to the delight of young and old.
After the character greetings, dinner was provided and then we headed to Sea Lion and Otter Theater for our first show. Along Bayside Pathway and the Waterfront, we saw many garden and sidewalk holiday displays. Store fronts in the Waterfront area were decorated with large wreaths and near the Seaport Theater, it began to snow. Holiday music played along our journey and contributed to the festive mood. Draped lights hanging from trees along the route and created a sense of magic in the air.
Clyde and Seamore’s Countdown to Christmas was a cute story of preparing for Santa by completing a checklist before Santa’s arrival. The mime from their regular show provided the funniest pre-show stunt by leading the crowd in singing Christmas carols! There were plenty of on-liners, a fast moving script, numerous animal tricks and slapstick humor. And the finale of the show encouraged everyone to keep the Christmas spirit in their hearts all year long.
Our group next headed to the Nautilus Theatre to see O Wondrous Night. Again, the holiday lights and displays along the pathway in combination with the holiday music were wonderful. The storyline of O Wondrous Night was enjoyable and included a donkey, sheep and bird each trying to take “credit” for Jesus being born in a manger in Bethlehem. Each of these animals was a large hand-held puppet controlled by choir performers. The singers and dancers were terrific and performed upbeat versions of many Christmas classics between the puppet stories. The finale was fantastic with live farm animals and camels joining the puppets and performers on stage after the birth of Jesus. The crowd was ecstatic as the live animals entered the theater and walked down the aisles toward the stage. During the final moments of the show approximately 50 doves flew from behind the manger above the audience with the crowd shrieking in delight. Thunderous applause erupted as the choir finished their final song.
The walk to Shamu Stadium was highlighted with many bright red Christmas trees in Sea Garden, holiday music and lighting draped from the trees. As we neared Shamu Stadium, the color theme changed to blue. Much of the music during Shamu Christmas Miracles was from Trans Siberian Orchestra and the music score of The Polar Express. The finale featured an inspiring and uplifting live performance of the song Miracles concluding with six orcas and an upbeat spiritual Christmas classic.
Bayside Theater was our final destination to see Winter Wonderland on Ice. It was a great show with 14 skaters performing solo, pairs and as a group to various holiday songs. The staging was excellent with trees and lights setting the mood with different colors and effects. In addition, the lake fountains were lit and cascaded to the music as a backdrop to the skaters. The Sea of Trees hundreds of feet away was synchronized to the music and performance. The show concluded with a huge finale and joyous response from the crowd. Then the announcer introduced Holiday Reflections: Fireworks and Fountain Finale! The array of fireworks, dancing fountains in the lake and the hundreds of Christmas Trees in the Sea of Trees all coordinated to music primarily from The Polar Express were a sensory delight.
Overall, the event was a wonderful experience for young and old. The holiday season is our family’s favorite time of the year to visit the parks in Orlando. This was my first opportunity to see SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration and it will now be on our “must do” list for the holidays. A heartfelt thank-you goes to SeaWorld for their generosity on Friday night. Their outreach and love for children in the area including Children’s Home Society of Florida truly shows SeaWorld’s compassion for children and our community.
By Phil, husband to regular OI contributor Maureen
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