MEXICO BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) – Cities across the Panhandle have been lighting their town Christmas trees this past week, and on Sunday, the city of Mexico Beach was next on the list, continuing an over 20-year tradition.

Mexico Beach has had its fair share of challenges in the last three years; from Hurricane Michael to COVID-19, the tight-knit beach town’s road to recovery hasn’t been easy.

But it was nothing but smiling faces at the tree lighting.

“I’ve seen tons of people smile that haven’t smiled in a while because it is just fun having everybody here and seeing everybody that they haven’t seen in a while and it’s just best for everybody,” Mexico Beach resident Kailey Dillenbeck said.

People were welcomed to the tree lighting by music performed by the Forgotten Coast Ukulele Orchestra.

This year’s celebration also included the annual golf cart parade.

The carts traveled throughout town and then arrived at the tree lighting with Santa along for the ride.

The Mexico Beach Fire Department was also collecting unwrapped toys for those in need this Christmas.

“We just really need to have more of these events to bring our neighborhood back together and all of our people that we are working with here in the city,” City Administrator Doug Baber said. “People just continue to come out and flourish and they haven’t had any kind of events over the last three years since the storm and we are building parks and we’re trying to get more community involvement so we’re enjoying every chance we get to do this.”

The Bay County Sheriff’s Office is screening “Elf” on Friday, December 17 at 6 pm at Under the Palms Park with complimentary drinks, popcorn, and candy.