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PHOTOS: Vanilla Ice, Winterfest kick off holidays in Wellington


If “smiles are contagious,” rapper Vanilla Ice just gave Wellington a case of the grins.

The Wellington resident and pop culture icon headlined the village’s eighth annual Winterfest on Friday night, kicking off a string of holiday events taking place in Wellington over the next two weeks, including the Wellington Holiday Parade on Sunday.

Winterfest, a partnership between the village and the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, merged this year with the KVJ Show Vanilla Ice Block Party, combining for one massive event that drew about 9,000 people to the Wellington Amphitheater complex.

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People in camp chairs, on blankets and sheets — and even an inflatable couch — weathered the warm, sticky night that preceded Saturday’s cold front, packing on the amphitheater lawn and spreading across the surrounding area for an evening of food, games and entertainment.

In addition to a performance by Vanilla Ice, the night’s festivities included the annual lighting of the village’s Christmas tree, a massive zipline and obstacle course for children, and performances by local musicians and groups.

This was the rapper’s eighth year taking part in Winterfest, and his 12th block party. “It gets bigger and bigger every year,” he said backstage at the amphitheater before his performance.

“They all know why we’re here and what we’re doing,” Vanilla Ice said of the crowd. Admission to the Winterfest was free, with a suggested donation of a free, unwrapped toy for Little Smiles, which provides toys to children in hospitals. Vanilla Ice and his partner, Wes Kain, take the toys to Palms West Children’s Hospital each Christmas.

“You’ll see kids in there and it touches you,” the rapper said. “… When I see the difference it can make, it’s amazing how you can really believe how smiles are contagious.”

Kain, who grew up in Greenacres, said over the years the charity has distributed more than 2 million toys. “It’s about giving back and making sure every one of those kids get toys,” Kain said.

Thousands of toys were collected Friday night, Little Smiles volunteers said. Wellington Chamber president Michael Ferreira said a lot of hard work goes into making Winterfest happen, to collect those toys. “Seeing those kids, seeing their faces, that makes it even more special,” he said.

Wellington Mayor Anne Gerwig said she has been amazed to see Winterfest grow each year. “Vanilla Ice does this on his own time,” she noted. “And it just gets bigger and better.”

(Scroll down for more Winterfest photos and details on Wellington’s holiday parade.)



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