As the owner of a few major event planning companies in Jacksonville, Anne Urban is the mastermind behind over 400 events per year on the First Coast. This holiday season, however, one particular event she has orchestrated is particularly special for her, as it happens to be taking place in Ponte Vedra, the community she has called home for 27 years.
That event is Enchanted Christmas Village, and this year, the 43-acre holiday masterpiece that opened last weekend is located off Palm Valley Road in Nocatee. Featuring wagon rides, holiday food and drink, caroling, pictures with Santa Claus, an animated Christmas tree that performs every hour and over 1 million Christmas lights, the Village represents everything that is magical about Christmas, said Urban, and it’s in the town that has provided so much for her and her family.
“I really wanted to do something to give back to the community,” said Urban, who owns Centerstage Entertainment & Event Rental and Destination Planning Corp., which plan and coordinate City of Jacksonville events such as the Florida/Georgia game, the Jazz Festival and World of Nations. “This is home. This is Christmas. I’m overwhelmed with it because I get to share it with the people who are in my community.”
Urban founded the Village and hosted it for the first time last year on the Westside of Jacksonville. Over 18,000 people visited the holiday attraction, which ultimately supported 11 nonprofits and sent over 20 kids on mission trips.
According to its website, the mission of Enchanted Christmas Village is to provide “a Christian environment for all ages to celebrate the Christmas holiday through a community event that provides a fundraising event to support bringing all missing children home for the holidays.”
This year’s honored charity, Urban noted, is the Bairfind Foundation (http://www.bairfind.org/). Founded by a former professional baseball player, the nonprofit’s mission is to find missing children, producing signs for sports stadiums and arenas that feature photos of each city’s missing children. Signs are placed in high visibility areas and seen by millions of sports fans each season, greatly increasing the chances that featured children will be located safely.
Urban said the top three days that children go missing are the three days surrounding Christmas, hence why Enchanted Christmas Village chose to support the nonprofit in its efforts. Urban noted that the Bairfind Foundation has a 49 percent recovery rate of bringing kids home safely. The Village will also support mission trips again, Urban noted.
Urban, who has been planning events for 30 years, said Enchanted Christmas Village is the biggest event she’ll plan this year. She and her team started laying Christmas lights and preparing the property, which is owned by St. Francis In-The-Field Episcopal Church, at the end of August.
As visitors walk into the Village, they first enter a marketplace of vendors selling stocking stuffers and other holiday gifts. At the head of the vendors is the main entertainment stage and surrounding them are various food trucks. On the opposite side of the entertainment stage is a one-of-a-kind Christmas tree that performs every hour. Urban said there’s only one other tree like it in the country at Disney.
Other attractions of the Village include rustic walking trails adorned in Christmas lights and decorations that also feature a live manger scene, bounce houses, singing reindeer, a tractor ride, other stages for entertainment and more. Along the trail, families can take photos with Santa Claus, courtesy of North Pole Photography, and at the end of the trail, families can step inside a giant igloo, where photo opportunities and entertainment are available to enjoy. Other events, including High Tea and Bowties with the Claus Family, are offered.
On average, Urban said families spend an average of two to three hours at the Village, which she noted is appropriate for the entire family, adding that the attraction is ADA and handicap compliant. Visitors are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes as the path is partly paved and partly grassy.
Cost of admission is $19 for adults, $10 for children 17 and under and free for kids 2 and under. A family four pack is $50, and discounts are available for military and military dependents, seniors and first responders. Discounts do require display of appropriate ID. Parking is limited and costs $5.
Enchanted Christmas Village (https://jacksonvillechristmas.com/) will run Dec. 8-10, 15-17 and 21-23 from 5 to 10 p.m. According to Urban, the attraction is exactly what local families need to experience right now to celebrate the holiday season.
“This is to me what Christmas is … the magic of it all,” she said. “There’s so much going on in our world right now that is awful, and this isn’t. This is unbelievable.”