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Thousands expected to head to downtown Prescott Dec. 3 for Christmas Parade, Courthouse Lighting

People fill the courthouse plaza for the 2015 Courthouse Lighting in downtown Prescott. The Prescott Chamber of Commerce estimated there were close to 8,000 people in attendance.

People fill the courthouse plaza for the 2015 Courthouse Lighting in downtown Prescott. The Prescott Chamber of Commerce estimated there were close to 8,000 people in attendance.

PRESCOTT – An assortment of Christmas wishes will be on display this weekend, when 86 floats, bands, and walking groups will parade through downtown Prescott to the theme, “All I Want for Christmas.”

The 34th annual Prescott Christmas Parade is set to kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, and circle the major downtown streets of Willis, Cortez, Goodwin, and Montezuma.

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A few hours later, the attention will turn to the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza for the 62nd annual Courthouse Lighting. The lighting is scheduled for 6 p.m., while musical entertainment will begin at 5 p.m.

Prescott Chamber of Commerce CEO David Maurer said as many as 10,000 people are expected to turn out for the Christmas Parade, filling the popular viewing spots eight to nine people deep.

The parade starts at the corner of Willis and Cortez streets, and Maurer says many of the spectators tend to congregate on Cortez along the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza. For those looking for a bit more space, Maurer suggests heading to Goodwin Street, near the Chamber of Commerce building, 117 W. Goodwin St.

“I always think the Goodwin Street block in front of the Chamber is less populated,” Maurer said, adding that other good spots include in front of the businesses along Whiskey Row (Montezuma Street).

The “All I Want for Christmas” theme allows for a variety of interpretations, Maurer said. For example, he said one entry from a local dentist will play off the “my two front teeth” line in the popular Christmas song.

For decades, the first Saturday in December has been Prescott’s big holiday send-off. The tradition dates back to the 1950s with the traditional Courthouse Lighting. It grew in the early 1980s with the addition of the Christmas Parade.

When then-Gov. Rose Mofford named Prescott “Arizona’s Christmas City” in 1989, the designation solidified the community’s long-time holiday image.

This year, Maurer says the Courthouse Lighting would follow the usual tradition of a choir singing Christmas carols and the reading of the Christmas Story – all leading up to the illumination of the courthouse and plaza lights.

One new feature this year: A brief tribute to Mofford, who died earlier this year, for her part in the Arizona’s Christmas City designation.

The Courthouse Lighting typically brings out an even larger crowd than does the parade. “Regardless of the weather, we usually have a huge crowd for the lighting,” said Chamber Finance Director Harold Viehweg.

In preparation for the Courthouse Lighting, the Prescott Downtown Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce work for months to plan for the tens of thousands of lights that decorate the courthouse plaza and other locations throughout the downtown.

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Joan and Tommy Meredith display the western sculpture that will be the raffle prize in this year’s Friends of Jersey Lilly Courthouse Lighting Fundraiser. The piece, titled “Tribute at Dawn,” was sculpted and donated by local artist Bradford Williams.

Maurer says as many as 110 trees on the plaza would be lit this year. Workers with Christmas Light Decorators, the firm that installs many of the decorations, have been stringing lights for months.

Helping with the $75,000 to $80,000 cost for the Courthouse Lighting is the Friends of Jersey Lilly Courthouse Lighting Fundraiser, which raised $32,000 last year toward the effort.

This year’s fundraiser is still underway, and the raffle of the “Tribute at Dawn” bronze sculpture, donated by artist Brad Williams, will take place at the Jersey Lilly Saloon, 116 S. Montezuma Street, on the evening of the Courthouse Lighting on Dec. 3.

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