Tree Lighting Today Ushers In Christmas In Chandler SanTan Sun News

Tree Lighting Today Ushers In Christmas In Chandler

December 5th, 2018 | by SanTan Sun News
Tree Lighting Today Ushers In Christmas In Chandler
Neighbors
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By Colleen Sparks

Managing Editor

The enormous, iconic tumbleweed Christmas tree in downtown Chandler does more than draw locals and visitors eager to create festive memories – it also boosts businesses in the area.

City officials and downtown businesses say the 35-foot-tall tree, made of hundreds of tumbleweeds attached to a wire frame, entices people to visit the many stores and restaurants to shop in the winter holiday season.

Today and tonight, Dec. 1, are expected to be especially busy as the tree will be lit during a special ceremony at 8 p.m. at Dr. A.J. Chandler Park, 3 S. Arizona Ave.

From 4:30-9 p.m. local dance, cheer and musical groups will perform on the downtown stage, and the Parade of Lights will brighten downtown Chandler starting at 6:45 p.m. along Arizona Avenue from Frye Road to Erie Street.

“I think that the tree is a longstanding tradition,” Kim Moyers, Downtown Redevelopment Manager for the City of Chandler said. “On any given night, once the tree is lit you will see people surrounding the tree. It’s a good opportunity for people to come down with their family, get their picture taken.

“It’s definitely the busiest time of year for all the downtown businesses and they love the tree. It’s just a perfect evening for people to come out; they frequent the restaurants and it’s a good opportunity to spend an evening in downtown Chandler.”

The Parade of Lights brings tens of thousands of people to downtown, beginning earlier in the day, Moyers said. Many will eat at local restaurants before the parade starts and stick around after the parade is over. The tumbleweed tree is reportedly the only tree of its type that a city in this country provides.

“The last few years, we’ve also seen the businesses decorate all of the windows, which is just beautiful, to stroll down and see all the paintings that have a holiday theme,” Moyers said.

Santa Claus will also be by a house near the tumbleweed tree from 5 to 7 p.m. on Dec. 6; noon to 5 p.m. on Dec. 8 and noon to 5 p.m. on Dec. 15. People can pose for free with Santa thanks to the Chandler Lions Club.

Starting in early November, city parks workers began building the unusual tree, a tradition marking its 62nd year this season. The tree has generated national and local media coverage.

Over two weeks, crews placed hundreds of tumbleweeds to a wire frame, covered them with paint and glitter and then added holiday lights and other decorations ahead of the tree lighting ceremony.

Park workers use 600 to 800 tumbleweeds that they started collecting in October and sprayed them with 50 gallons of flame-retardant and 45 gallons of gloss-white paint.

While the paint was still wet, the workers dusted the tumbleweeds with 70 pounds of glitter and then arranged about 1,200 holiday lights on the tree. With the star on top, the tree is 35 feet tall.

Sibley’s West: The Chandler and Arizona Gift Shop at 72 South San Marcos Place is one of the downtown businesses that thrives from the tumbleweed tree and its related celebrations.

John Wolfe, who co-owns Sibley’s with his wife, Michelle, said Brenda Schodt of Southwest Ornaments, which she owns with her husband Rick, paints a special tumbleweed tree ornament sold at Sibley’s every year.

It has been sold since its big reveal event on Nov. 20 this season, and a limited number are available for purchase.

Another special part of today involves several guests at Sibley’s. Arizona artists/entrepreneurs Doris and Walter Husbands, who create jewelry made with tumbleweeds through their company, Tumblestone Gems & Jewelry, will visit Sibley’s from 5 to 7 tonight.

Also today from 5 to 7 p.m. couple Jay and Sandy Hanson, who own ArtiSands, which offers sand art projects, will visit the store. Tom Van Dyke, author of “A Cowboy Christmas An American Tale” will also talk to people at Sibley’s from 5 to 7 p.m.

“The Tumbleweed Tree is always one of the best days of the year both for the community and for our store,” John Wolfe said. “It’s great. We get a lot of families and regulars, visitors. The gamut of people and it’s just a very warm, charming evening. Usually we’re super busy. I try to run over and see some of the parade and the tree lighting.”

Wolfe said the tumbleweed tree ornament is “quite special” and many people have been buying the ornaments every year since 2012.

All of December is expected to be busy at Sibley’s.

The store also has other guests visiting this month, including Arizona’s official state balladeer Dolan Ellis, who will perform at 2, 3 and 4 p.m. on Dec. 8.

Rich Berra, nationally syndicated radio host of iHeart Media’s Johnjay and Rich Show, will sign his book, “The Tale of Christmas Steve” from 3 to 5 p.m. on Dec. 15 at Sibley’s.

Also on Dec. 15, Dave Munsey, who retired from FOX 10 as a longtime weatherman, will visit Sibley’s to promote his “Munsey Business” autobiography and do his humorous Christmas tree lighting.

Cheryl Tisland, co-owner of Burst of Butterflies Create & Paint Studio at 141 W. Boston St. downtown, also said the tumbleweed tree helps generate traffic in the area. She and her mother, Peggy Peters, own the studio, where customers can paint pottery and canvases.

“It seems to be pretty good for us,” Tisland said. “We like a lot of these kind of events because it brings people down and has them walking around and brings them to the different shops.”

Her store is holding a big ornament painting event from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. tonight, where people can paint and decorate pottery tree ornaments for $10 per ornament.

Tisland said she believes a new event the Downtown Chandler Community Partnership is holding, Downtown Chandler’s Holiday Selfie Circuit, will also attract people to the area.

Anyone can pose at playful holiday décor including a gingerbread man, a snowman and lit-up acacia trees. The nine selfie stations are sprinkled around downtown.

Downtown Chandler Community Partnership is also hoping to boost downtown visits with its Sippin’ Santas Pub Crawl starting at 1 p.m. on Dec. 15.

People are encouraged to dress up in Santa costumes and visit different pubs for $2 specials, live entertainment, festive T-shirts and a costume contest prize. To buy tickets for the pub crawl, visit downtownchandler.org/sippin-santas-pub-crawl.

“This is a busy time for us,” Tisland said. “We’re always excited to see all those people coming in and painting their holiday décor or gifts. We love it. I’ve been going to the tree lighting ceremony for over a decade and it’s just an awesome event. I’m glad that downtown Chandler is continuing to do it year after year.”

Kimberly Carrillo/Staff Photographer

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