santa

Santa’s arrival by helicopter in Ahwatukee Plaza, courtesy of Millie’s Hallmark store, kicks off weeks of holiday celebrations. (AFN file photo)

Residents across the East Valley looking for places get into a festive spirit have many events to choose from.

Starting this weekend, cities will be lighting up their downtown areas and even some neighborhoods will join he fun with boat parades.

In Ahwatukee, the big attraction is the arrival tomorrow, Nov. 25, of Santa and Mrs. Claus, thanks to Millie’s Hallmark in Ahwatukee Plaza, 5027 E. Elliot Road.

Millie’s for more than 30 years has hosted a helicopter arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus and a few elves.

Free entertainment and activities precede Santa’s arrival beginning at 9 a.m. They include a performance of the Ahwatukee Nutcracker by the Studio 111 performers, elves that entertain with face painting and other fun stuff.,

Here’s a look at some of the regions highlights.

Chandler

Just south of Mesa, Dr. A.J. Chandler Park in downtown Chandler will glitter with a magical candy land known as Sugarland. 

What began as a way to get cooped-up residents out of their homes and outside in a safe manner during the height of the pandemic has since become a tradition for Chandler residents, according to Downtown Chandler Community Partnership spokeswoman Jessica Walrath. 

“Sugarland began in 2020 as a way to bring Christmas to Downtown since it seemed like everything was closing and there wasn’t going to be Christmas because people couldn’t be around each other,” Walrath said. “It was born out of a way just to bring everybody together safely outside and with this interactive display.” 

Since its humble beginnings two years ago, Sugarland is aiming to be bigger than ever this year. 

“We are going to kick off Sugarland with a big reveal and then there are a ton of events planned for Saturday Nov. 26 – which is Small Business Saturday,” Walrath said. “We’re going to have street performers perform live music on the street for patrons as they stroll and shop locally in downtown Chandler or grab a bite to eat.” 

This year’s display will include

light-wrapped trees, a fruit roll-up slide, large gumdrops kids can climb on, and several other candy-themed interactive installations. 

Chandler will light its Tumbleweed Christmas Tree at 8 p.m. Dec. 3 in downtown’s A.J. Chandler Park. It will be preceded by family-friendly activities 4-6 p.m. and a parade at 6:45 p.m.

At 35-feet tall and 20-feet wide, the tree has nearly 1,000 tumbleweeds covered in 65 pounds of glistening glitter, 25 gallons of white paint and 20 gallons of fire retardant. The tree is wrapped in more than 1,200 LED lights.

Known nationwide, the iconic tree has been featured on several Travel Channel shows and Saturday Night Live.

The Tumbleweed Tree debuted in 1957, making 2022 its 66th year.

Mesa

Continuing with a long-standing tradition, Downtown Mesa will start looking like something out of a Hallmark holiday movie. 

Bright lights will be wrapped around light poles and festive decorations will glam up Downtown and Valley Metro’s light rail will be transformed into a Christmas train.

And a massive four-story Christmas tree on Macdonald and an accompanying ice rink are among the big attractions all season long as part of the eighth annual “Merry Main Street” celebration. 

“There’s been a long tradition of celebrating the holidays in downtown Mesa,” said Mesa Mayor John Giles. “When I was a kid growing up here, it was a big deal when the city would roll out decorations that would be hung on the light poles and downtown Main Street, so we have tried to rekindle that.” 

An annual performance to kick off the holiday season that has Giles the most excited. 

Giles is a star in the returning rendition of the play “The Man Who Killed Santa Claus” – which is based on the true story of how merchants in Mesa during the Great Depression came up with the idea of pushing a dummy dressed as Santa Clause out of a plane and deploying a parachute. 

The parachute failed to open, traumatizing hundreds of kids.

In an attempt to rectify the traumatizing blunder, former Mesa Tribune editor John McPhee donned the red coat and hat but the damage was done. 

He was remembered from there on as “The Man Who Killed Santa Claus” and has since been immortalized with a play recreating the botched stunt. 

“It’s a very funny, very true story about this tradition of downtown Mesa being the place to come to celebrate the holidays and we’ll have some great, talented professional actors reenacting the story,” Giles said. 

Tempe and Gilbert

No desert celebration of Christmas is complete without a boat parade and the East Valley hosts two of them.

At 7 p.m. Dec. 3, The Islands in Gilbert, located off Warner Road between Cooper and McQueen roads, will see scores of brightly colored boats cruising the community’s lakes.

A week later, form 4-9 p.m. Dec. 9 along Rio Salado near Tempe Town Lake, the annual Fantasy of Lights Boat Parade is the centerpiece of a festival that includes food and other fun.

Scottsdale

Scottsdale plans to kick off its month-long Scottsdazzle festivities with a tree lighting ceremony and holiday-tune sing-along on Saturday, Nov. 26. 

“We kick off the holidays with a huge, wonderful event called the ‘Sing-Along and Tree Lighting Ceremony that happens down with the Scottsdale waterfront,” said Karen Churchard, city director of tourism and events.

“It’s just very dazzling,” she said. “We have a full orchestra – MusicaNova – that performs and we have different local celebrities that sing and lead the attendees in song.” 

After nearly a dozen classic holiday tunes, the fanfare will climax with the lighting of the 40-foot-tall Scottsdazzle tree and three smaller trees atop the Marshall Way Bridge. 

Scottsdazzle’s a calendar is chock full of over 30 events counting down the days to Christmas Day, beginning with deals during Small Business Saturday, a chance to meet Santa at the Old Town Farmers Market, and wine cork crafting at the Holly Jolly Wine Cork.

“We want to showcase Old Town Scottsdale as the place to do your holiday shopping, to do your holiday celebrations, and to come out and get in the mood,” Churchard said. 

Here’s a guide to the region’s holiday events:

SCOTTSDALE

 Hidden in the Hills:

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 25-Sunday, Nov. 27/

Where: See the website for a map

Cost: Free

Info: sonoranartsleague.com

 Scottsdale Quarter

When: Friday, Nov. 25: Dicken’s Carolers 11 a.m., Mrs. Claus and Grinch 11 a.m. and LED Violinist 5 p.m.

Where: The Quad at Scottsdale Quarter, 15279 N. Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale.

Cost: Free

Info: scottsdalequarter.com

 McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park

Holiday Lights

When: 6-9:30 p.m. nightly starting Friday, Nov. 25 to Friday, Dec. 30.

Where: McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park, 7301 E. Indian Bend Rd, Scottsdale

Cost: $15

Info: therailroadpark.com

 Immersive Nutcracker: 

When: Saturday, Nov. 26, and Sunday, Nov. 27. Dec 1 through 31

Where: Lighthouse Artspace, 4301 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale,

Cost: $30

Info: immersive-nutcracker.com/phoenix

 Frosty Margarita and Taco Tour

When: 11 a.m. Thursdays through Sundays beginning Saturday, Nov. 26 through Dec 22.

Where: 7142 E. 1st St., Scottsdale

Cost: $145

Info: joyridesaz.com/fiesta-margarita-and-taco-tour/

 Prancer’s Puzzle Rides

When: Saturday, Nov. 26 through Saturday, Dec. 31; Various times

Where: various locations

Cost: $79

Info: scottsdazzle.com/event/prancers-puzzle-rides-dec-31/

 Holiday Weekend Entertainment

at Scottsdale Quarter

When: Saturday, Nov. 26: The Santa Social 2 p.m. and Holiday Movie in The Quad 6 p.m.

Where: The Quad at Scottsdale Quarter, 15279 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale.

Cost: Free

Info: scottsdalequarter.com

 Scottsdazzle Holiday Lights Tour

When: 6:15 p.m. nightly from Saturday, Nov. 26 to Tuesday, Dec 27

Where: 7142 E. 1st Street, Scottsdale

Cost: $125 per vehicle

Info: joyridesaz.com

 Jake Shimabukuro: 

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26

Where: Scottsdale Center for the

Performing Arts, 7380 E. 2nd Street, Scottsdale.

Cost: Tickets start at $48

Info: scottsdalearts.org/events

 Holly Jolly Wine Cork Crafting

When: 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 26

Where: 7134 E. Stetson Dr., B110, Scottsdale

Cost: $40

Info: scottsdazzle.com/events

 Scottsdazzle Sing-Along & Tree

Lighting Ceremony

When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26

Where: Scottsdale Waterfront, 7135 E. Camelback Road, Scottsdale

Cost: Free

Info: scottsdazzle.com/event/sing-along-tree-lighting-ceremony

 Meet Santa at the Market/Old Town

Scottsdale Farmers Market

When: 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 26

Where: OldTown Scottsdale Farmers Market

Cost: Free

Info: scottsdazzle.com

MESA

 Arizona Lights in the Night:

When: Wednesday, Nov. 23 through Thursday, January 5

Where: Thompson Events Center, 1901 N. Alma School Road Mesa

Cost: at $39.95 per vehicle

Info: arizonalightsinthenight.com

 Mesa Turkey Trot:

When: 8 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 24 

Where: Red Mountain Park, 7745 E. Brown Road Mesa

Cost: $15-$35

Info: mesaturkeytrot.com

 Merry Main Street: 

When: 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 25

Where: 20 E. Main Street, Mesa

Cost: Free

Info: merrymainst.com

 The Man Who Killed Santa Claus

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 25

Where: One E. Main Street, Mesa

Cost: $10

Info: mesaartscenter.com

CHANDLER

 Tumbleweed Tree Lighting

When: 4-8:30 p.m. Dec. 3,

Where: Dr. A.J. Chandler Park West, 3 S. Arizona Avenue, Chandler

Cost: Free

 Sugarland

When: 5 p.m. to 10 pm. Saturday, Nov. 26 – Sunday, January 2

Where: Dr. A.J. Chandler Park West, 3 S. Arizona Avenue, Chandler

Cost: Free

Info: downtownchandler.org/do/sugarland

 Ballet Etudes Nutcracker: 

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 25, Satur

day, 7 p.m. Nov. 26, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26

Where: Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave, Chandler

Cost: $29-$31

Info: balletetudes.net/the-nutcracker

QUEEN CREEK

 Queen Creek Extreme Bulls: 

When: 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 25, and Noon Saturday, Nov. 26

Where: Queen Creek Horseshoe Park & Equestrian Centre 20464 E. Riggs Road, Queen Creek.

Cost: $20

Info: visitmesa.com/sports-planner/queen-creek-xtremebulls/

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