All across Arizona, communities are planning festivities filled with the spirit of the holiday season: parades, lights festivals, arts markets and fairs filled with wonderful items for gift-giving, concerts, caroling, the Southwestern treat of luminaria displays. Here are four events to get you in the spirit:
Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair
One of the premier street fairs in the nation, this gigantic event is a Tucson tradition that is packed with fun and has stuffed many a stocking over the years with an outstanding selection of gift items.
The 40th annual Winter Street Fair will be Dec. 11-13 between Ninth Street and University Boulevard along Fourth Avenue. Free to attend, the fair offers 400 arts and crafts booths that cover the spectrum from fine art to country crafts, clothing, jewelry and specialty foods.
More than 35 food vendors keep the crowds’ hunger at bay with Greek, Chinese, Mexican, barbecue and fry bread among them. Two stages present live music and entertainment, while street performers cover the gamut from the Andes to violin music.
Kids will have a blast at the “Van Grow” hands-on art pavilion as well as other fun activities. As Tucson’s biggest event, the fair draws crowds of 200,000 to 300,000 people, yet despite its size, the atmosphere is homey and friendly. Visitors head home with bulging bags of gifts, full tummies, echoes of music and a happy smile. Fourth Avenue Winter Street Fair, (520) 624-5004, www.fourthavenue.org.
Red Rock Fantasy
A festival of nearly 1 million lights, Red Rock Fantasy is a magical way to get a big dose of holiday spirit. It takes place at Los Abrigados Resort, nestled within Sedona’s red rocks.
“Lights On” for this 19th annual event will be 5 p.m. Nov. 19. The festival lasts through New Year’s, with “Lights Out” on Jan. 2, 2010. Families create nearly two dozen displays featuring a variety of themes — comic, fanciful, religious. Each marvel brings forth oohs and aahs as the crowds wander from one creation to the next.
Visitors may choose five favorite displays, and the winner receives a lifetime vacation ownership through ILX Premiere Vacation Club. Runners-up also receive prizes. The festival is open each evening (weather permitting) from 5 to 10 on Fridays and Saturdays and 5 to 9 Sundays through Thursdays. Admission: $5 adults, $4 seniors, and $2 children ages 4 to 12. Red Rock Fantasy, (928) 282-1777, (800) 521-3131, www.redrockfantasy.com.
Lighted Boat Parade
Beautifully decorated boats blazing against a dark sky, Santa Claus, a free showing of “The Polar Express,” free hot chocolate and popcorn — what a great way for family fun on Thanksgiving weekend. The Parker Area Chamber of Commerce Lighted Boat Parade takes place on Nov. 28, starting at the Blue Water Resort & Casino Marina.
Judging of entries takes place and attendees have time to marvel at the detailed decorations of the boats before the parade starts at 6 p.m. “The Polar Express” will be shown at the Blue Water Resort & Casino Amphitheatre. Then it’s off to River Lodge Resort, where the parade ends and Santa awaits.
Parker Area Chamber of Commerce Lighted Boat Parade, (928) 669-2174.
Mountain Village Holiday
Holiday spirit will be in abundance on Route 66 in Williams from Nov. 28-Jan. 9 at the town’s Mountain Village Holiday. Activities include tubing and snow play in the Kaibab National Forest, horse-drawn sleigh rides down Main Street, and a ride aboard Grand Canyon Railway’s Polar Express in your best pajamas.
The Williams Light Parade and the lighting of the community Christmas tree will be Nov. 28 starting at 7 p.m. This year’s theme is “A Time for Christmas, Christmas Time in Williams.” Strolling Dickens Carolers will get you in the mood as you get your hot chocolate and find your spot along Route 66 to view entries with colorful lights and festive music. Santa will light the 2009 Williams Christmas tree in the town center. Mountain Village Holiday, (800) 863-0546, www.williamschamber.com.