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Christmas Countdown: Courthouse lighting will be twice as bright

This year’s lighting of the Court-house Plaza in Prescott will take place 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6.

Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier

This year’s lighting of the Court-house Plaza in Prescott will take place 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6. Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier

Prescott earns its title as The Christmas City in part from its annual downtown dazzle of holiday lights.

Since 1954, thousands converge around the Courthouse Plaza for the lighting of the building and surrounding trees at 6 p.m.

Always the first Saturday of December, the event wraps up a day of holiday celebration, beginning with the Jingle Bell Run/Walk at 10 a.m. and the 1 p.m. Christmas Parade with marching bands and usually more than 100 entries.

"It's going to be the traditional service that we've had before, then we're going to throw on the lights," said Harold Viehweg, Prescott Chamber of Commerce finance director, adding that the city has hired a new sound company this year.

The pre-show segueing to the grand illumination begins at 5 p.m. with Matt Kiefling directing high school, middle school and pre-school students on the Courthouse steps in a selection of Christmas carols.

The Prescott High School Show Choir will perform a few numbers before 5 p.m.

Following tradition, the city closes Gurley Street for the crowds to gather for a good view, and former State Sen. Ken Bennett will narrate "The Christmas Story."

Pat Forrest from the Prescott Downtown Partnership said the city will have five more lighted trees around the Courthouse this year, "somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty-two" of the 50 around the plaza.

The Prescott chamber, the Downtown Partnership, and other donors helped raise the amount totaling between $75,000 to $80,000 cost for the lights and decorations, Viehweg said, compared to the $72,000 last year, as reported by The Daily Courier.

Doug Topham, owner of the lighting company Christmas Light Decorators, said the company this year put up about 500,000 LED (light-emitting diode) lights on the Courthouse, gazebo and surrounding trees, 150,000 on the statehood tree alone.

"We've got 30 other trees up to 6,000 lights each, 180,000 there, so we're close to half-a-million," he said, adding that the amount is almost twice last year's amount.

The lights use 220 amps total, compared to 1200 a few years back, he said.

Viehweg said the city keeps the lights up to around Martin Luther King Day.

Always the Friday night following the Courthouse Lighting, the J.S. Acker Musical Showcase brings thousands back downtown for a night of live music at surrounding businesses.

This year marks the event's 20th anniversary with about 90 businesses in the Whiskey Row vicinity and City Hall to provide venues for musicians.

"Our opening has gotten bigger each year. We're going to have the fire department helping us to open," said Acker president, Marion Smith, adding that Prescott High bandleader Dan Bradstreet will conduct The Christmas Tubas, a 20-tuba orchestra on the Montezuma side of the plaza around 5:30 p.m.

To divert congestion from the surrounding cafes and eateries, vendors like Starbucks, The Wildflower Bread Company and Goodwin Street Deli will offer pies, hot chocolate and chili, with proceeds going the Acker charity fund.

The holiday showcase is the primary fundraiser for the organization.

Acker raised more than $26,000 in 2008 which went to the music programs at Prescott High School, Kestrel High School, the Tri-City School of Music, The Classics Studio, Volante Academy, the Music Start Camp, and smaller contributions, Smith said.

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