Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ritz-Carlton's Christmas Is Spectacular Time; Guests Will Enjoy Nice Holiday Touches, Great Food and Kids Will Get Visits from Santa

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ritz-Carlton's Christmas Is Spectacular Time; Guests Will Enjoy Nice Holiday Touches, Great Food and Kids Will Get Visits from Santa

Article excerpt

Byline: KEVIN TURNER

AMELIA ISLAND - They really know how to put on Christmas at the Ritz-Carlton.

Guests who come from various places to celebrate the holiday in the hotel's famously upscale style are immersed in carefully planned and executed holiday touches.

There is a 17-foot-long, 12-foot-high gingerbread pirate ship in the hotel lobby. Interior archways are lined with holiday garlands and bows. Fresh seasonal plants are in every common room and hallway. Overall, the resort is decorated with 400,000 lights.

And in the hotel courtyard, a 53-foot-high, 18-foot-wide Christmas tree, specially selected and shipped to the hotel from Oregon, towers above all but the hotel's towers and is festooned with 60,000 lights.

This year's festivities kicked off with the lighting of the Christmas tree in the courtyard, an event open to the public. This year about 1,500 attended, said Director of Public Relations Farley Kern.

"It's a day when we open the doors of the resort to the community," she said. "The kids really love it. The parents love it, too. The employees work so hard to put the event together."

But that's not the only thing the hotel's employees make happen every Christmas season.

Floral Supervisor Angela Bennett and her staff make about 40 cacti, 60 orchids, 23 Christmas trees, 80 poinsettias, dozens of other plants and 54 lighted garlands stretching across the front and back of each hotel archway. And she's done it for 13 years.

"I start seven or nine days before the tree-lighting," Bennett said. "I have a staff of eight to 10 people working eight to 10 hours a day."

Director of Purchasing and Landscaping Ron Willis is in charge of the Christmas tree. He chose the 32-year-old white fir after looking at 20 to 30 pictures of trees, starting back in June, he said.

The tree was in an inaccessible area of Oregon forest and had to be removed with a helicopter, Willis said. It arrived at the hotel six days before the tree-lighting and was decorated over three days.

"The payoff at the end is when you have so many kids around," he said. "It's a neat experience. …

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