Originally Published: December 10, 2015 8:42 p.m.
It's that time again, time to take part in a unique holiday experience unlike any other. It's Acker Night, celebrating its 27th year starting with an opening ceremony at 5:15, Friday, Dec. 11. More than 100 businesses will feature more than 100 performers throughout Prescott, on Cortez, Goodwin, Granite, Gurley, McCormick, Montezuma, and Sheldon streets starting at 5:30 p.m.
Acker Night began in 1988, due to the efforts of LaVon Anderson, who took James Acker's concept of children's music programs and created an event that promoted the programs and downtown businesses, said Scott Currey, J. S. Acker Music Park Association committee member. Back then, there were only eight stores and eight musicians that participated. It's Prescott's finest night, he said.
"It's a 27-year tradition where locals come down and they'll see people they haven't seen all year," Currey said. "It's probably one of the most unique holiday experiences in the nation. I don't know of another city that does what Prescott does on this night."
The association raises money for scholarships that go to students in the quad-city area. Last year it was able to give 45 scholarships worth about $18,000 and more than $9,000 to local schools for music programs, Currey said. This year, they hope to raise at least the same amount, he said. People attending are encouraged to donate in tip bags located inside the businesses where performers are playing.
But it's not just music. Santa will be on Gurley Street for people to make Christmas wishes and have photos taken and the Wells Fargo Stage Coach will be on Montezuma Street for photo opportunities, Currey said. This year is the first time the stage coach has been at Acker Night. Also on Gurley is a dance where people can dance throughout the night, and everyone is invited to sing the Hallelujah Chorus at 7:30. There's also a surprise at 6 p.m. on Gurley, Currey said. He wouldn't reveal anything.
"Can't tell you what it is or then it wouldn't be a surprise," he said.
Wildflower Bread Company, Park Plaza Liquor & Deli and Starbucks will also have a presence, giving 100 percent of their proceeds to the association, Currey said.
Every kind of music imaginable will be present, from bluegrass and country to Christmas and gospel and even belly dancers, Currey said. Performers and locations include Dylan Ludwig at the Milagro Arts Center, 126 N. Marina St.; Covenant 31 at First Baptist Church of Prescott, 148 S. Marina St.; The Lest We Forgetters at Ogg's Hogan, 111 N. Cortez St.; Brad Newman at Gurley Street Grill, 230 W. Gurley St.; and Road One South at the Elks Theatre and Performing Arts Center, 117 E. Gurley St.
This year, Road One South is once again performing with young musical talent supported by the donations from the event. This time, it's with selected members of the Prescott High School Jazz Band. It's an awesome opportunity for the students, band director Dan Bradstreet said.
"They don't get to play in this format very often," he said, noting the challenges in performing in key signatures the jazz band doesn't play in very often. But it's exciting as well as challenging, Bradstreet said. "I'm just very proud of the kids for the time they've given to this activity. I can't wait to show them off."
Currey praised Road One South, noting that the band goes above and beyond each year to include students in the participation of Acker Night.
With so many performers, attendees won't be able to get everywhere, so if people have a specific type of music they want to listen to, they should check the schedule on www.ackernight.com. But since parking has to be on the outer limits of downtown, it's an enjoyable journey to one's intended destination.
"Enjoy your walk in, because there's something for everybody going on," Currey said.
By Jason Wheeler. Follow Reporter Jason on Twitter @PrescottWheels. Reach him at 928-445-3333 ext. 2037 or at 928-642-5277.