Christmas Parade precedes courthouse lighting Saturday

Prescott continues to live up to its name as “Arizona’s Christmas City” this weekend with the 35th annual Christmas Parade on Saturday afternoon and the 63rd annual Courthouse Lighting later that evening.

It takes a year’s worth of planning, a whole lot of sponsors and Prescott’s winter weather to make the parade the best Christmas parade in the state, said Prescott Chamber of Commerce Office & Events Manager Laura Warne.

“We are Arizona’s Christmas City,” Warne said. “Our parade has to be worthy of its name.”

Starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, at the courthouse plaza, the parade’s theme this year is “A Cowboy Christmas.”

Worthy it is as the parade is going to have around 85 entries, including marching bands, dancers, car clubs and a lot of Prescott favorites, Warne said. Prescott Frontier Days even has an entry this year, she said. That hasn’t happened in quite a long time and it is an honor to have them joint the event, she said.

Tommy Meredith is this year’s grand marshal for a number of reasons, Warne said. He was honored at the inaugural Grand Marshal Gala on Thursday, and Meredith is a big fund raiser for the courthouse lighting, said Prescott Downtown Partnership Executive Director Kendall Jaspers. This year’s fundraising alone brought in more than $30,000.

Even though the parade takes so long to produce, with the weather always providing a challenge in doing so, seeing everything come together seamlessly along with the community’s response is rewarding, Warne said. There is not one person who can’t enjoy it, she added.

“There’s something for everybody,” Warne said. “All ages, it’s great.”

Later in the evening at 6 p.m. is the courthouse lighting where Jaspers said there are somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 lights around courthouse plaza, Honor Park, a light tree at the entrance of town and some decorations on the Montezuma connector and East and West Gurley.

The goal this year was to get it a little more reliable, he said.

“Last year, we struggled quite a bit with trying to keep the lights on. We had a lot of bad weather and we have a lot of outlets that are on the ground,” Jaspers said. “We tried to get more of our things up in the air, we did some work with separating circuits with silicone barriers between the outlets … we think we have it pretty well balanced.”

Last year the drip lights were in the center area of courthouse plaza, but they didn’t show up well, he said. To resolve that, they moved them to the corners this year and their more visible.

A big effort for a small town, it takes a village full of volunteers to prepare for getting the courthouse all lit up, he said. That effort produces a good payoff though, Jaspers said. One Christmas night, he and his wife went out and saw hundreds of people walking around the courthouse plaza with groups of people singing carols, little kids and people taking pictures.

“To see how much that meant, to see how much use it got and how much appreciation,” Jaspers said. “That’s where you get paid.”

Once again this year too, Prescott Downtown Partnership is wholesaling Christmas City mugs to various places around Prescott and whatever profit is made goes to the courthouse lighting, he said.