A New York Christmas in Jacksonville

by Brenton Crozier
Christmas brings out the traditionalist in us all. It’s one of those times where we crave custom and welcome the familiar. It’s true that other holidays have a similar effect, but not on this same level. Many of the most engrained images we carry about this time of year were born out of New York City. One such image is the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes.
We had the opportunity to speak with Mandy Evans Brown, a member of the Rockettes since 2005. She gave us some insight on being a Rockette, what to expect from their upcoming performance as part of the Artist Series at the Times-Union Center from December 2nd through the 12th and of course, Christmas activities in New York City.
“I loved visiting the tree at Rockefeller Center and ice skating in Bryant Park,” Mandy said of her favorite holiday pastimes. So our task is upon us: finding the Jacksonville equivalents of these iconic activities.
The Rockefeller tree lighting ceremony.
I would have to say the River City answer to this is the annual tree lighting ceremony at the Landing. Not quite the same fanfare, but you can’t beat the ease with which you can stroll over to Hooters. I believe the Silver Foxx has something they called a tree lighting ceremony, but I wouldn’t bring the family for that one.
Ice skating in Bryant Park
The Jacksonville Ice & Sportsplex offers year round ice skating, but features various holiday specials. It’s not as fanciful as Bryant Park might be, but you also won’t get to skate to “A Southern Rock Christmas” either. And besides, who wants to live somewhere that’s cold enough to have an outdoor ice rink? That’s right, Dad, here in Jacksonville you can go play the back nine after an ice skating adventure with the family.
Visiting Santa at Macy’s
Mandy also mentioned visiting Santa at Macy’s as a favorite Christmas pastime in the Big Apple. While Jacksonville still can’t claim a Macy’s, we have plenty of Santa appearances at malls, the Town Center, the Army Navy store… but after contacting the Pecan Park Flea Market, I found out the gentleman claiming to be Santa was not officially sanctioned and will be escorted off the premises if he returns. Authorities warn, do not let your child sit on this man’s lap.
Radio City Music Spectacular Starring the Rockettes
“Absolutely see the Radio City Music Spectacular. It changed my life when I was a little girl,” was Mandy’s response when I asked her the one thing people visiting New York City shouldn’t miss during a Christmas visit. And the Jacksonville alternative? We don’t need one, as the Artist Series will be bringing the spectacular to the Times-Union Center. And though they perform with ear-to-ear smiles, there is nothing easy about what they do. Mandy told us, “We rehearse six days a week, six hours a day for just about a month so that we’re ready for the show.”
And what can you expect at the upcoming performance? “The world-famous Rockettes, the precision dance company, lot’s of energetic tap and jazz dance routines, we also have Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus and we have a live nativity with animals. It’s a wonderful show for all ages,” Mandy told us. For more information about the show or to get tickets, you can visit www.artistseriesjax.org. Don’t miss Mandy and her fellow Rockettes in this celebrated tradition… right here in town!
Sure Jacksonville might not be home to many nationally celebrated Christmas icons, but I can’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather be, or could afford to be. As I drive through Avondale and Riverside when everyone has their luminaries lit, it’s comforting, it’s home, it’s Christmas in Jacksonville.