The Christmas lights at the Mesa Arizona Temple grounds are such a spectacle that ABC's Good Morning America once named them one of the top three holiday shows in the nation.
But when it comes to the city's holiday tradition, not even Mayor Scott Smith can recall when - or if ever - Mesa put up an official tree to raise holiday cheer.
He and the Downtown Mesa Association are working to change the city's Grinch-like approach on Saturday as they hold an inaugural downtown holiday tree lighting.
Smith said he hopes this begins a tradition that will become one of downtown's larger events.
"Downtown never really did have an ongoing Christmas presence because the Temple was just so really overwhelming. Now we're recognizing we need to expand that and make the downtown lively," Smith said. "You go to the beautiful Temple gardens with their hundreds of thousands or millions of lights and you'd go into the dark downtown with no life at night or even a hint that it was Christmas."
Mesa's new festival is 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, with a lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. at the northeast corner of Main Street and Macdonald.
Downtown was once home to the popular weekend event called Merry Main Street, but the city slashed special events funding in 2006. DMA executive director David Short wasn't in Mesa at the time but he heard pleas to revive it when he began his job here. The sentiment was so strong that Short said he knew downtown needed some kind of holiday tradition. He and Smith said they figure it will take a few years to build the event's size and popularity.
"We knew it would be tough recreating Merry Main," Short said. "We wanted to start fresh. This is the first step in that."
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