PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Dozens of people gathered in Pier Park on Monday night to celebrate the wintertime Jewish celebration known as Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights.
Rabbi Mendel Havlin said he couldn’t believe how many people showed up at the event.
“It’s an even bigger crowd than last year, and three years ago,” Rabbi Havlin said. “Every year, it’s become bigger and bigger… It’s unbelievable.”
Some of the holiday festivities included a fire juggling show, food, music and a giant 12-foot menorah lighting.
People of all faiths came out to participate in the event. Special guest Mayor Mark Sheldon had the honor of lighting the Shamash.
“I just think it’s always great to have groups of people together in a community setting like this… When you see church together and all of the families together, and you see the celebration that they’re having, it just gives you a good spirit, and you feel the seasons are intact right now,” Mayor Sheldon said. “It’s just a great night, and it’s great to see all the people out here together celebrating as one.”
Attendee Sarah Jarnicki agreed with the mayor.
“We’re all Americans, and we all value freedom, and he highlighted that,” Jarnicki said. “That’s so much of what Hanukkah is about.”
The celebration meant a lot to the local Jewish community, according to Sarah Guillot Register, whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors.
“Most of the stories you hear are all so dark and sad, so to see the celebratory part of the Jewish faith is so much fun, because there’s so much light and laughter and joy to go with it,” Guillot Register said.
Hanukkah will end on Monday, December 6.