Christmas season officially begins today in Chandler SanTan Sun News

Christmas season officially begins today in Chandler

Christmas season officially begins today in Chandler
Community
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SANTAN SUN NEWS STAFF

It may already seem like the holiday season, but Chandler will make it official tonight, Dec. 7, with the annual lighting of the tumbleweed tree and the Parade of Lights at Dr. A.J. Chandler Park.

The Parade of Lights – which features a wide range of participants, including businesses, nonprofits and churches, and covers about a mile through downtown Chandler – will kick off the free event at 6:45 p.m., with the tree lighting ceremony set to begin around 8 p.m. But people can arrive at 4:30 p.m. to enjoy entertainment and other activities – including visiting with Santa.

The centerpiece of the celebration is the same as it has been since 1957 – a 50-foot Christmas tree made of 2,000 tumbleweeds, 25 gallons of paint, 65 pounds of glitter and 1,200 lights.

“First and foremost, we’re the only ones with a tumbleweed Christmas tree,” said Chandler spokesman Craig Younger. “Not a lot of people can imitate it because it’s so unique.”

“It’s a great thing for people to bring families down to when they’re visiting and have a photo in front of it – it’s quite the conversation piece,” he added.

The enormous tree draws thousands of visitors – and also boosts businesses in the area.

“I think that the tree is a longstanding tradition,” Kim Moyers, city downtown redevelopment manager said last year. “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. 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 kind in the nation.

“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.

City parks workers began building the unusual tree last month, placing hundreds of tumbleweeds on a wire frame.

Sibley’s West: The Chandler and Arizona Gift Shop, 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. A limited number are available for purchase.

“The Tumbleweed Tree is always one of the best days of the year both for the community and for our store,” John said last year. “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.

At today’s celebration, kids will be able to get a free picture with Santa at Santa’s House, except from 6:30-8 p.m., when the house is closed because the old man in the red suit is in the parade.

Meanwhile, people can make holiday ornaments, and a special mailbox will be on the premises for kids to drop their letters to Santa.

A Chandler Fire Department fire truck also will be at the scene for people to bring new, unwrapped toys for its toy drive for needy kids. Thousands of toys for newborns through 18 years of age will be distributed.

Visitors are encouraged to bring bikes, scooters, sports equipment, Hot Wheels, electronic games, learning toys, books and any other new toy they think might bring a little extra cheer to a needy boy or girl.

Visitors also can play a free session of glow-in-the-dark laser tag, and youngsters can saddle up and enjoy free pony rides downtown.

Giant inflatables that bounce, bump and slide will be provided by AZ Inflatable Events, and people can purchase $10 wristbands for unlimited play or individual tickets at $2 apiece for select attractions.

Later this month, Downtown Chandler Community Partnership is also hoping to boost downtown visits with its Sippin’ Santas Pub Crawl starting at 1 p.m. Dec. 14.

The adults-only event includes $2 specials, live entertainment, festive T-shirts and a costume contest. To buy tickets for the pub crawl, visit downtownchandler.org/sippin-santas-pub-crawl.

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