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12:48 AM Sat, July 21st

Acker Night befits Prescott’s reputation as the ‘Christmas City’

The Daily Courier, file

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One of the most unique and beloved Christmas celebrations in Prescott is the annual Acker Night Musical Showcase, a tradition started in 1988 that married James S. Acker’s desire to promote music for children through a holiday musical extravaganza that would draw people into downtown businesses.

The first Acker Night opened with eight musical performers in eight downtown stores.

On Friday, Dec. 9, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., there will be 165 performers at 135 different shops and venues in the downtown area: Gurley, Sheldon, Montezuma, Goodwin, Granite, Marina and Cortez streets. Festivities will begin with some opening remarks at 5:15 p.m. on the Gurley Street side of the Courthouse Square that will then be followed by the third year of a community sing-along of the Hallelujah Chorus led by the Prescott Chorale.

From there, the Acker Night volunteers invite the thousands of participants who come to Acker Night to go and explore the downtown, with each business and restaurant offering a mini-stage for minstrels, dancers and poets galore. The night will be alive with the sounds of banjo duos and ukulele groups; barbershop quartets and country crooners; folk, pop and classic rock and eclectic brands of Christmas medleys. Visitors are welcome to clap or dance along with the Adult Center’s country Western line dancers, who will perform on the courthouse stage from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., or visit Womansong on Cortez Street at 7 p.m. for acoustic Flamenco.

Indeed, there will be no shortage of performing artists able to appeal the tastes of every visitor on this night of holiday revelry – the Firehouse Plaza’s Hungry Monk on Goodwin Street will host coffee house covers from the 1950s to today and Ortega’s Galloping Goose will feature country gospel. The Elks Theatre & Performing Arts Center will feature Bradshaw Mountain High’s chorus performing “Blues” and the English Garden Tea Room on Goodwin Street will have The Gladhearts performing “Christmas.”

“It truly is Prescott’s finest night,” said Scott Currey, president of the James S. Acker Music Park Association, a nonprofit organization of volunteers who put together the annual event.

This year, for the first time, the Acker Musical Showcase will have a theater organ delivered to the courthouse plaza main stage that will be played all night.

“That should be a treat, I hope,” Currey said.

For local businesses, saloons and restaurants, Acker Night is a time when locals and visitors alike can become aware of some of the unusual fare and tastes that are offered by downtown businesses on a year-round basis, and all are encouraged to roam, peek and, certainly, shop.

“It really, truly is unique,” said Debbie Koch, assistant director of the Prescott Downtown Partnership.

Beyond the performances and spotlight on downtown businesses, Acker Night generates donations to the organization’s music scholarship program that benefits students in the Prescott, Humboldt and Chino Unified school districts.

This past year, the organization gave 49 scholarships to students for private music lessons, as well as giving money to the various districts.

“And we hope to do that again,” Currey said.

The festive spirit of the season will also include opportunities for photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus from the North Pole on the corner of Gurley and Montezuma streets. Wells Fargo has also donated its stagecoach to guests eager for some special holiday pictures.

Currey advises that no one can see all of the performances, but the organization website provides a full schedule so people can pick and choose what they want for their evening’s entertainment.

“We encourage people to come down and just have fun,” Currey said. “This is truly very unique, and great for Prescott.”

“It’s pretty incredible,” Koch concluded.