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Courthouse Lighting effort strives to live up to last year's event

PRESCOTT - After last year's move to more than double the number of lighted trees on the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza, Prescott Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer David Maurer said a new standard was set.

This year, he said, it was apparent that the annual Christmas event would have to duplicate that the effort.

"It was very popular," Maurer said of 2011's increase to 100 lighted trees on the plaza. "It's obvious that we raised the bar. Our goal this year is to have it look like last year."

In the fall of 2011, Maurer announced that in honor of Arizona's 100th anniversary in early 2012, the number of lighted trees on the plaza would go from the usual 35 or so to 100.

To reach that goal, the Chamber made a couple of changes, including lowering the top height of the lights in order to spread out the decorations to more trees, and beefing up fundraising.

This year, Maurer said the effort is looking at a budget of $74,000. About $68,000 of that will go toward the Courthouse Lighting, while the remainder will go for incidental costs, such as replacing bulbs.

While the City of Prescott contributes $30,000 of its bed tax money toward the budget, much of the remainder comes from private-sector contributions - mostly from businesses, but also from individuals.

So far, the fundraising reportedly has gone well. "We're close," Maurer said Friday.

Contributing significantly to the total each year is the growing amount that the Jersey Lilly Saloon raises. If the effort raises $10,000 or more, as projected, Maurer said a portion likely would go toward the 2013 lighting.

The contractor who installs the decorations each year already has put up many of the lights, Maurer said.

"A lot of it was done in early September, and they will be back in early November to finish the job," Maurer said.

Bar owner Tommy Meredith, who spearheads the annual Jersey Lilly Saloon fundraiser, noted that the courthouse lights annually stay lit throughout December and January - one of the things that appeals to him most.

"Every other (Christmas) event is one night or one afternoon," Meredith said. "This goes for months. That's what makes it special."

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