PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — The holiday season kicked off Wednesday night with a lights festival in downtown Pensacola.

Santa Claus arrived downtown, not in his sleigh, but in a firetruck. He walked down Palafox to greet all the kids during the 6th Annual Holiday Haul which is an event with shopping deals at local businesses and pop-up vendors. Many people went downtown to see half a million holiday lights turned on for the first time.

“I know the second those lights turn on, it gets instantly more magical down here,” Samantha Breedlove said. “So between that and all the small businesses and the growth we’re seeing in downtown, it’s just booming so it’s a lot of fun.”

Breedlove is one of the owners of Rusted Arrow Mercantile on Palafox Street. The shop is full of holiday decorations, home decor and people looking for a good deal. Breedlove and another business owner started this event and it’s grown each year.

“It started out with just our block of retail shops and we wanted something to kinda kick of the holiday season, show all of our new products, and invite people to come downtown and support local retail businesses,” Breedlove said.

Matthew Wilson, his wife, and their three boys just moved here from California. They came out to see Santa, the lights, and to do some shopping.

“The local shops,” Wilson said. “Everyone’s very friendly and it’s an opportunity to get out and enjoy the nice weather and Christmas spirit.”

Winterfest begins on Palafox Nov. 18th. That includes the polar express tour, pictures with Santa and the Grinch and of course, a ton of lights.