Originally Published: November 27, 2010 10 p.m.
PRESCOTT - In a tune-up for this weekend's ever-popular Christmas Parade and Courthouse Lighting, the 15th annual Holiday Light Parade downtown did not disappoint early Saturday night - despite featuring a smaller field of entrants than a year ago.
Hundreds of people flocked to the courthouse plaza on a fairly comfortable evening with lower-40-degree temperatures and virtually no wind to usher in the holiday season for "Arizona's Christmas City."
The event basically followed the same route as Prescott's yearly Fourth of July Parade - beginning at Murphy's Restaurant on Cortez Street before turning onto Goodwin Street and subsequently onto Montezuma and Sheldon streets.
With four Prescott police motorcycles leading the front of the procession, Granite Mountain Middle School's marching band followed with each one of its members playing their respective instruments while donning string lights on their uniform tops.
A calliope softly played "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" as five big floats came after it, including the elaborate UniSource Energy Services float, which later claimed its third straight parade grand prize.
Light parade committee members Barbara Boyer and Pattie Ezell said about a handful of prominent community members judged the entries, which included colorfully lit floats from Prescott-area small businesses as well as string-lighted fire department trucks and motorcycles.
The Prescott Downtown Partnership once again sponsored the parade, one that's designed to get residents re-engaged in the spirit of the holidays.
One of those fully caught up in the celebration was Daniel Yeakle, 50, of Chino Valley. Stationed in a lawn chair next to the announcer's stand on Cortez Street across from the courthouse, Yeakle watched the light parade for the fifth straight year. On this occasion, several members of his extended family were also in attendance.
Yeakle said his son, who's in the Navy, and his female friend from Mexico decided to come to the parade after spending Thanksgiving here.
"We like seeing all the different lights at night, and it's a chance to get together with family," said Yeakle, who wore a red-and-white Santa hat with an American flag pin attached to it. "We enjoy the start of the Christmas season."
Sarah Jordan, Yeakle's 31-year-old daughter from Chino Valley, who was all bundled up alongside her husband and children, said the colder elements only heighten the holiday anticipation.
"I just like being out in the cold air and watching the beautiful lights, and being with my family, like my father does," she said.
No more than 100 yards down Cortez Street from Yeakle and his family, Robert Walker, 38, and Jenny Wolk of Prescott sat on the sidewalk waiting patiently for the parade procession and a couple of friends to arrive.
Walker, who attended the parade once before, tagged along with Wolk, who was absorbing the experience for the first time.
Over the past couple weeks, Walker and Wolk said they were watching crews erect holiday decorations on the courthouse in preparation for this Saturday's big festivities.
"It's pretty awesome the way everybody puts all the lights together," Walker said of the floats in the parade. "Some of them get pretty creative, and it's neat to see everybody gather around like this."
Saturday's gathering really wasn't anything new for Wolk, though. As a child living on the East Coast in Virginia, Wolk said she would visit the Chesapeake Christmas Parade every year near Virginia Beach, Va.
"I always enjoyed the glow sticks and those people that threw candy to us," she said. "I liked the Shriners in their little cars, too."
Walker said the Prescott's Holiday Light Parade is perfect - for families.
"It's about making memories," he said. "It's a good thing because it welcomes in those of all ages."