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Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2002 12:00 am

Sun City Vistoso residents will host their 16th annual holiday program, "The River Kids Best Holiday Program Ever," at 7 p.m. Dec. 5, 6 and 7 at the Sun City Social Hall, 1495 E. Rancho Vistoso Blvd.

The event, a Christmas celebration combining theater, dance ensembles and choral accompaniment from the Sun City Singers, is the culmination of year-long planning and coordination by various clubs and social groups in the Oro Valley retirement community.

Tickets for the show are $10 and proceeds go to the Sun City Vistoso Community Association, which finances the event, for the management of its recreational facilities.

According to producer/director Jinnie Wilson, the show consistently draws a crowd of more than 1,000 people each year in a community of less than 5,000 residents. Wilson credits the success of the program to its dedicated volunteers.

"This is a communitywide effort that in turn benefits our neighborhood," Wilson said.

Every aspect of the show is created by the residents and community clubs, from costumes and set design to musical composition and performance. More than 150 seniors living in the retirement community make up the cast and crew for the program.

Preparations for the show begin as early as January and include the sewing of costumes and elaborate set creations for about 130 onstage performers.

Many of the retirees have professional acting, musical or other performance experience and most are multi-year performers in the program.

Wilson, a retired fund-raiser for various local symphonies who has directed and produced the program for 13 years, also develops the idea and cowrites the script for each holiday program.

For this year's performance, she took a unique approach to displaying the many talents of the cast, age 55 to 89.

"It's a play about a play," Wilson said. "In the first act, the actors are frantically trying to pull together a holiday show; while in the second act they hold their auditions."

The 'auditions' come from performances by the community's tap dance club, waltzers, cloggers, musical numbers from the Sun City Singers and many others.

In the past, the program has been open only to residents of Sun City Vistoso and their guests; however, this year's event is general admission.

Bob Azzarello, a retired mechanical engineer who has performed in the program for the last six years, hopes that the expansion of the show will dispel myths about retirees in Oro Valley.

"There are no old people living in Sun City," said Azzarello during a rehearsal last week. "We are just mature adults living very active lives."

Reserved seats for the show are on sale now; tickets also will be available at the door.

During the week of the performances, there will be a silent auction featuring artwork from various artists living in the retirement community, including represented works from retired commercial artists and the community's photography, oil painting, sculpture and other art clubs. High bids for the items will be announced following the show Dec. 7.

For more information or to reserve a ticket for the show, call 825-6674.

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