North side residents hankering for some early holiday fun have to travel no further than the towns of Marana and Oro Valley this weekend to feel a bit of the jolly spirit. Decked out with live performances, local vendors, ample food and a bit of arts and culture, the Oro Valley Holiday Festival of the Arts & Tree Lighting Celebration and Marana’s Holiday Festival & Christmas Tree Lighting are two must-visit events.
A once small affair, the Town of Marana’s annual holiday event is expected to draw more than 6,000 attendees this year, and will take place this Saturday, Dec. 2, from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Marana Municipal Complex Roundabout (11555 W. Civic Center Drive).
“Our hope is that we can create an experience that will help people to build new traditions and family memories,” said Town of Marana Special Events Coordinator Monique Hagberg. “We carefully think through every element so that there is something for everyone. We want this to be a fun, festive event for the entire family.”
The centerpiece of any holiday festival tends to be the lighting of the Christmas tree, and Marana has long embraced this tradition in the form of a 40-foot tree. Not only will the evergreen monolith act as the centerpiece of the entire gathering, but the tree is also part of a massive, synchronized light show that incorporates the surrounding area. The lighting and first performance of the show will take place at 6 p.m., and is the largest in Southern Arizona. The light show will run every hour from 5 to 9 p.m. beginning next Monday, Dec. 4 through New Year’s Eve.
Even though the event takes place in Southern Arizona, don’t be surprised to find a bit of snow in the desert at the Marana event. After a successful debut last year, the town has announced that the snow globe will make a triumphant return for a second year. According to the town, 20 tons of snow will be shipped in—leaving plenty for a snowball, sledding and maybe a snowman (or woman) or two.
“We’ve nearly doubled the amount of snow we are bringing in this year to enhance the experience of walking into an actual snow globe,” Hagberg said.
The roundabout affair will host a variety of local dancers, singers and musicians, including the Silver Steppers, Estes Elementary Ukulele club, the Marana Chamber High School Chamber Orchestra, the Mountain View High School Jazz Band and more. The live show kicks off at 3 p.m. with the Silver Steppers, and the Marana High School Symphonic Choir close the show when they take the stage at 7:30 p.m.
Make sure to bring an empty stomach, because no festival is complete without a wide selection of food. According to Hagberg, the selection will satisfy any craving, from ice cream to barbecue, French pastries to authentic Hawaiian delights.
Nearly two dozen vendors will attend the event, including an “Elf Flea Market,” and The Humane Society of Southern Arizona will join Marana’s Animal Services Division with some “fur-babies” to adopt. And most importantly (to some), the red-coated couple of Christmas spirit is returning to Marana in the form of Mr. and Ms. Claus.
Over in Oro Valley, the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance has partnered with the town to once against host what has been coined “the largest community celebration of the arts in Southern Arizona,” The Oro Valley Holiday Festival of the Arts & Tree Lighting Celebration.
The two-day bonanza, at the Oro Valley Marketplace (12155 N. Oracle Road) this Saturday and Sunday, will feature over 150 local and regional artisans and crafters, nearly three dozen performances by student and local musicians, family activities, food trucks and the ever-popular TUBACHRISTMAS. Catch the tree lighting Saturday evening at 6 p.m.
“The Oro Valley Festival of the Arts and Tree Lighting Celebration is so much more than a holiday event,” said Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath, in a prepared statement. “This two-day gathering is a reflection of our town’s diversity and love of arts and culture.”
Outside of lifelong family memories, the Oro Valley festival will also host more than 150 local and regional artisans with goodies and gifts the workaday shopper will miss in the big box stores; several chalk murals with festive holiday themes will find homes in the marketplace; and a variety of food vendors will satisfy any craving.
The Oro Valley event will also feature more than 30 live performances on the main stage, including appearances from the Canyon del Oro Canyon Singers, Saguaro Stompers Clog Dance, Tucson Girls Chorus, Ocotillo Rain & Thunder a variety of local school groups and more. At 2 p.m. on Saturday, the worldwide musical phenomenon TUBACHRISTMAS will take place for the 44th year in a row (across the world).