Holiday Festivities and Traditions in
COCONUT GROVE

The magical mystery of the Grove has always attracted unique and dynamic individuals. There have been intimate family gatherings, as well as grand galas. This year, several of our Community Leaders shared how they celebrate the holidays. These men and women of all ages shared their common love of the Village of Coconut Grove. Over the years, many have returned to Coconut Grove after completing careers in various exotic corners of the world. Others grew up in the Grove and never left. Threads of family bonds and the joy of being together at the holidays are woven throughout their stories.

Plymouth Church
Plymouth Church

Peter Gardner, CEO and Founder of the Pointe Group, a real estate brokerage, management and development company, is a Miami native whose family has been here since the 1920’s. He remarked that his favorite holiday tradition is Christmas Eve, when the family all goes to Plymouth Congregational Church, one of the first churches established in Coconut Grove. Plymouth has an early service for children at 5:00 P.M. After the worship service, the children visit Plymouth’s side Cloister Garden where they find a manger and a real baby representing Jesus in the stable with the animals.

Peter mentioned that it is a very special time when he can see friends he grew up with in the Grove who have followed careers around the globe and return home for Christmas. The adults trade tales of their children, life events and happenings in the Village of Coconut Grove while the children play with the animals in the Cloister Garden.

After dinner at their home, the Gardner family returns to Plymouth for the traditional midnight candlelight Christmas Carol service.


Dolly McIntyre is an honored preservationist who was instrumental in founding Dade Heritage Trust and has been President of the Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove and now serves on the Board of Directors there. Dolly remarks one of her favorite events is the mid-December luncheon where members continued the tradition of the early members with their annual luncheon and gifts for men and women of the West Grove Senior Center. Santa’s Elves, in red in the photo, came to help serve the luncheon and lead Christmas Carols and stories this year. Great fun was had by all.

Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove
Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove
Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove

Stone Crabs

Frank Balzebre, a Miami native and longtime Coconut Grove activist, is now working with Mayor Carlos Gimenez of Miami-Dade County as Liaison to the Mayor for Business, Trade, and Industry for South Dade. He shared with me that his family’s latest tradition has been to go out on Biscayne Bay, seek out his permitted traps for fresh Stone Crabs and bring the crabs back home to boil, crack and serve up fresh to family and friends. Following the evening refreshments, they gather around the piano and start to sing their favorite Christmas Carols while the mood gets funnier and louder after every a good round of egg nog. This includes three generations of Balzebres: Frank’s father and mother, Frank’s wife Nancy, his brothers and sister and their kids.

Another of Frank and his family’s favorite traditions is to join the Ibar and Barton families to brainstorm their King Mango Parade Strut skit and incorporate their ideas, music theme and logistics to get it done by parade time! Frank says, “It's a great time for all families to unwind and get their “crazy fun mode” on with all our children, friends and family.... look for the green Volkswagen leading the band!”

The King Mango Strut is Sunday December 28 at 2:00. It begins where Commodore Plaza meets Main Highway. This zany spoof of the Orange Bowl Parade has been a Coconut Grove tradition for approximately the last 33 years.



Joanna Lombard is a Professor in the School of Architecture at University of Miami. She has published a number of books and journals about homes and gardens in South Florida. Joanna reports that though the family traditions change as the kids get older, one constant is the wonderful pre-Mass concert at St. Hugh’s on Christmas Eve. She and her family always find it entertaining to walk along the streets of the Grove to admire the decorations. minorah

Plymouth Church
Optimist Prams in Regatta

This year, I am continuing one of my favorite traditions and joining my friend Susan Walcutt, Race Committee Chair at Coconut Grove Sailing Club, to help her and her able race committee run the Orange Bowl Regatta at the CGSC.

Between the youngsters from around the world at Coral Reef Yacht Club and the adult sailors at CGSC, there are over 625 boats and approximately 775 sailors -- plus parents, husbands, wives and significant others -- all visiting Coconut Grove for this week of racing and festivities between Christmas and New Year’s. This is a major group of visitors coming to the shores of our Biscayne Bay to race in what Charlie Rahn, a Commodore at CGSC, dubbed, “The Small Sail Boat Racing Capital of the World.” Jane Anne Pincus, who runs one of the Coral Reef Orange Bowl racing fleets, tells me that the Coral Reef Orange Bowl Regatta is the largest youth regatta in the United States.

We all agreed how blessed we are to live in our Village of Coconut Grove on sparkling Biscayne Bay, where we spend the Holidays with friends and family in the community we love.

Warmest wishes for a Happy and Healthy Holiday
and a Prosperous New Year in 2015!

Many thanks to Lucia Brawley, Writer and Coldwell Banker Realtor, who collaborated with me for this article.

Anne Platt
Anne Platt


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P.S. Many of you have enjoyed my article about our earlier pioneers’ celebrations from the late 1880’s and 1920’s. You can find it below if you wish to review:
Early Coconut Grove Traditions



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