Originally Published: October 13, 2018 6:04 p.m.
Silver icicles dangle from leafy branches on the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza, and multi-colored lights are tightly wound on the trees’ trunks.
The leaves are still green, but the courthouse plaza in downtown Prescott is already taking on a decidedly Christmas vibe.
This week marked the start of the massive job involved each year with transforming the plaza into a showcase for Arizona’s Christmas City.
Workers with Christmas Light Decorators of Mesa were out in force, using bucket trucks and cranes to attach the lights to the towering trees.
The coming weeks will bring even more preparations for the holiday season, which culminates with the annual Courthouse Lighting and Christmas Parade – scheduled this year for Dec. 1.
NEW THIS YEAR
Sheri Heiney, president and CEO of the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, said the 2018 season would introduce a number of new features aimed at heightening the holiday experience.
Most noticeable will be a reworking of decorations in the historic bandstand located on the northwest side of the plaza. While the bandstand will once again be decorated with its traditional Christmas finery, it also will feature a new area geared toward the cellphone age.
“We’re going to create a selfie area,” Heiney said. She described the new area as a spot for people to take photos of themselves among figurines of a gingerbread man and a snowman – all framed by curtains of lights and an “Arizona’s Christmas City” sign.
“We wanted to create an experience for residents and visitors,” Heiney said, adding that organizers plan to announce a special hashtag for people who want to post their photos on social media.
The new decorations are being paid for through donations, including an anonymous one to the Prescott Downtown Partnership, which partners with the Chamber on organizing the Courthouse Lighting.
Heiney said the new bandstand decorations have been ordered and are expected to be in place before the Dec. 1 events.
TOUCHING UP THE OLD
Also new this year will be refurbishment of some of the traditional decorations on the courthouse building.
Early this year, Heiney, who was in her first full year of planning for the Christmas events as Chamber President and CEO, formed a committee to plan for the 2018 season.
One of the main identified needs was improving the traditional decorations. An effort to raise $75,000 for the refurbishment of all of the decorations – including the holiday banners and streetlight decorations that are installed around town – is already underway.
So far, about $15,000 has been raised. The fundraiser will continue in the coming year, Heiney said, noting that a grant application has been submitted. All of the refurbishments are expected to be complete by the 2019 Christmas season.
Meanwhile, familiar decorations such as the candles, angels and poinsettias on the courthouse building are being refurbished with new garlands and LED lights for this year’s event.
Complementing the Courthouse Lighting will be the Daily Courier 2018 Downtown Prescott Holiday Window Decorating Contest, a project of the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, the Prescott Downtown Partnership, and the Daily Courier, and sponsored by Country Bank.
After participating businesses decorate their windows in a holiday theme, the public will have an opportunity to choose their favorite.
Voting on the decorated windows will begin Nov. 9 at https://www.dcourier.com/window-decorating-contest/, and will run through Nov. 23. The winner will be announced at the Grand Marshal Gala on Nov. 29.
Heiney said the window-decorating contest is another component in the overall effort to enhance the holiday experience. “We are the official Christmas City, and we want to showcase our community in the best say,” she said. “We want to roll out the red carpet.”
Each year, the annual Courthouse Lighting brings together a host of community donors and efforts to raise the thousands of dollars needed to put on the events.
While the main effort centers on Jersey Lilly Saloon (see related story), there are many other elements as well.
Heiney said the annual budget totals about $90,000, which includes about $65,000 for Christmas Light Decorators, as well as funds for other aspects of the community decorations.
Last year, the Friends of Jersey Lilly raised more than $42,000, while the City of Prescott contributed $30,000 of bed tax money. The remainder comes for the Chamber and the Prescott Downtown Partnership, which put in $5,000 each, and work to raise the rest.
Tommy Meredith, the longtime owner of Jersey Lilly and the founder of the Friends of Jersey Lilly’s Courthouse Christmas Lighting Fundraiser, emphasized the multi-week benefits of the Courthouse Lighting.
He points out that, unlike other major Prescott events that last for a few days or a week, the Courthouse Lighting continues to draw people to the downtown for weeks – continuing from early December through January.
“It’s a function not like any other,” Meredith said. “It covers everybody and anybody, and it doesn’t cost anyone a dime.”
Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks. Reach her at 928-445-3333, ext. 2034, or email@example.com.