One by one, COVID-19 has stomped the joy out of 2020 holidays. First, St. Patrick’s Day parties were canceled. Then Easter egg hunts, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day dinners, and Fourth of July fireworks. Now, for the first time in 20 years, the Florida Botanical Gardens has canceled its Holiday Lights in the Gardens event, which was scheduled to begin Nov. 27

“After several deliberations, the decision not to hold the event was deemed to be in the best interest of the (Florida Botanical Gardens) Foundation, our members, Pinellas County Parks and the general public,” a press release from the Foundation states.

Conceived in 1991 as an outdoor learning center, Largo’s 182-acre garden opened Dec. 2, 2000 to become one of approximately 40 arboretums and botanical gardens in Florida.

Each year since then, the foundation has decorated the gardens with holiday lights displays and opened them for public tours. The tours have become the foundation’s main source of income to keep the gardens open.

The 2012 holiday season was a success for the Florida Botanical Gardens in Largo. More than 75,000 folks came for the light shows. This year, COVID-19 concerns have forced the Garden’s main source of income to be canceled.

“This is particularly problematic for the Foundation, as the (evening) event generates a significant part of our annual operating revenue,” the press release stated.

This year, the gardens will still be decorated, but only open for daytime tours. Tours will lack the extra twinkling provided by the low lighting of the nighttime.

Other events will be held in 2020 and 2021 in an attempt to offset the financial loss. In the works are the annual Tour of Public and Private Gardens, Pumpkin Fest and Yoga in the Gardens.

The foundation expects to hold Holiday Lights in the Gardens again in 2021, and will begin looking for volunteers in March.