Originally Published: November 28, 2014 6 a.m.
For nearly 20 years, Prescott's annual Holiday Light Parade has offered a vibrant start to the Christmas season.
Featuring brightly lit floats, bands, and walking entries, the parade has been a Thanksgiving-weekend fixture since the mid-1990s.
The parade will follow that tradition again this year - but with some added highlights.
Set for 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 29, the event - officially dubbed "Prescott's Holiday Light Parade" - will include not just the parade, but an after-party at the Prescott Mile High Middle School field as well.
"We will have a lot of different things this year," Kendall Jaspers, the director of the Prescott Downtown Partnership, said this past week.
Among the most significant changes for those attending: "The parade will run backwards - from Cortez at Carleton to Willis to Montezuma," Jaspers said.
Then, after parade-goers enjoy a record number of entries - 36 -they will be able to enter the Prescott Mile High Middle School Field from the Goodwin Street side to get an up-close look at the creativity that goes into the floats.
"We'll give (float operators) the option at the end of the parade route," PDP Assistant Director Debbie Koch said of the display on the field.
Helping to keep people warm and in the holiday spirit will be a bonfire, managed by the Prescott Fire Department, as well as live Christmas music.
A previous crowd pleaser will also reappear at the event. Jaspers said organizers decided to resurrect the brightly lit reindeer display that once was central to the decorations on the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza.
The reindeer display was a favorite of former Yavapai County Supervisor Gheral Brownlow, who spearheaded the downtown Christmas decorations for years, before his death in 2008.
Crews found the old display in the storage area in Barn B at the city's rodeo grounds, Jaspers said. "We had a work day to rehab the reindeer," he added. "The parade crew spent quite a bit of time with them."
The reindeer display went away at some point in the past decade, as the plaza decorations evolved from a volunteer effort to a largely contracted endeavor.
But Jaspers and Prescott Councilman Chris Kuknyo, who initially came up with the idea to beef up the after-parade activities, pointed out that people continued to have a fondness for the reindeer, whose lights make them appear to be moving.
"My kids loved to race those reindeer," said Kuknyo.
Among the new features at the after-parade event will be "Rudolph Races" for the children. Santa and his elves will also be in attendance, Jaspers said.
The idea for the new features has evolved in recent months, Jaspers and Koch said, requiring considerable coordination for lighting, a generator, sound system, and a stage.
But they hope the effort will be worthwhile by offering additional entertainment on the night of the parade.
"We'd like to make it an annual thing if people like it and we have a good turnout," Jaspers said.
Although public parking will not be allowed on the grounds of Mile High Middle School that evening, Jaspers and Koch said the new parade route should free up other on-street parking areas in the previous staging areas off Willis.
In addition, they point out that Prescott's downtown parking garage offers parking near Mile High's Goodwin Street pedestrian entrance ($5 fee). In addition, free parking is available behind Prescott City Hall, at the Prescott Public Library, and at Yavapai County's parking deck off Marina Street.
- By Cindy Barks, The Daily Courier