Calling all community-minded Ahwatukee residents: The Festival of Lights Kick-Off Party needs your help.
With only 10 days to go before the 23rd event that helps pay for the million Christmas lights along Chandler Boulevard, the Festival of Lights Committee still needs a lot of volunteers to help make the eight-hour community party the Saturday after Thanksgiving run smoothly.
“We’re a little behind,” said FOL Committee President Janyce Hazlett. “Of the 300 we need, I’d say we’re only halfway there.”
The committee needs volunteers for three-hour shifts (10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 1-4 p.m.) Friday, Nov. 23, to help set up, as well as for the Nov. 24 party itself. There are so many tasks for Saturday duty – in three-hour shifts but all-day for those who can swing it – that the committee isn’t listing them on its sign-up page at folaz.org. Basically, the committee is just hoping volunteers will be ready to do whatever it takes to make Ahwatukee’s biggest party of the year another success.
The Kick-Off party, held at Desert Foothills Park at Chandler Boulevard and Desert Foothills Park, runs noon-8 p.m. and has become not only a tradition for many local families, but also an ideal event for them and for out-of-town guests who are visiting for the long Thanksgiving weekend.
This year, the committee has some new attractions to augment the standbys that have helped make the party a must.
One of those new additions is a VIP tent at the tavern, where, for $50, patrons get a $10 food voucher, a drink ticket, an engraved commemorative beer glass and – best of all – a place out of the sun and a reserved table.
“The tavern gets really crowded and what’s been happening in the past is that when someone went up to get a drink, they lost their table,” Hazlett explained, adding that the tavern will have two restaurants this year so that patrons will have more choices in food. They are Tees Concessions and Paradise Brothers.
Tickets for the adults-only tavern are available at the Safeway at 40th Street and Desert Foothills Parkway.
Food will be available in three areas. In the park, Popcycle, Water & Ice, Yoasis and Kettle Corn will be there. Restaurant Row will include Picnic Specialties, Tukee’s Tamales, Jersey Mikes, the Halal Guys, Nello’s, Hot Bamboo AZ, Arribas, WOW WOW Lemonade, I Dream Of Weenies, The Original Hoagie Shop and Chik Fil A, along with Waffle Crush and Pour Jo Coffee trucks.
Hazlett also expects a much larger lighted motorcycle parade, which rolls out at 6:30 p.m. as Santa’s escort.
Though she and her husband are not participating in the parade – they’ve sold their bikes after years of leading the parade – motorcycle shops and clubs have reached out saying they wanted to participate.
The party also will have a cornhole tournament, a pet parade sponsored by Pet Planet of Ahwatukee, a marketplace with about 100 vendors, and inflatables and rides that kids can enjoy for 50 cents a ticket or $20 for an all-day pass. Kids also will enjoy a Santa’s Village as well as train rides until the sun goes down.
There also are two stages featuring entertainment all day long. One stage will feature bands, headlined by the popular Tripwire.
The other will feature local groups, including the cast of Kimberly Lewis’ Ahwatukee Nutcracker, the Mountain Pointe High School Step Dance Troupe, the Sierra Strikers Mallet Ensemble, Desert Foothills United Methodist Church Choir, Mountainside Martial Arts, Horizon Community Learning Center’s Cantabile Honor Chorale, the Pecos Line Dancers and a performance from part of Esperanza Lutheran Church’s new Christmas show, titled “Noelphobia.”
Featuring a big cast of mostly Ahwatukee youngsters and teens, “Noelophobia” will be presented in full at 7 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 and at 3 p.m. Dec. 3 at Esperanza Lutheran Church, 2601 E. Thunderhill Place, Ahwatukee.
The light display that the Kick-Off Party helps pay for will be turned on the evening of Monday, Nov. 19 – earlier than usual.
“We figured a lot of people come in from out of town to stay with family and that it would be nice to start it a little early,” Hazlett said.
But even longtime Ahwatukee residents familiar with the display have a special reason to cruise along Chandler Boulevard between 24th Street and Desert Foothills Parkway this year because the lights have been reconfigured.
The Kick-Off Party also has benefited from an unexpected – but welcome – injection of new sponsors – notably Connect202Partners, which enthusiastically jumped aboard.
“With all the disruption the freeway construction has created in the last year, I think they wanted to do something for the community,” Hazlett said.
Not only did the freeway cost a number of homes in the Foothills HOA, which, along with the Club West HOA, financially supports the Festival of Lights, but construction forced more traffic onto Chandler Boulevard.
Other Kick-Off Party sponsors include Vision Community management, Wild Horse Pass Development Authority, Earnhardt Ford, Keystone Montessori, Foothills Pet Resort, TSC Air, PostNet, Safeway, Big O Tires, SRP, United Brokers Group, Premier Community Management, Magical Journey Learning Center, Allstate, Kokopelli Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, Two Men and a Truck and the Ahwatukee Foothills News.