Southern Arizona’s largest Christmas tree lighting show is in Marana and the town is again expanding the event.
Marana Holiday Festival and Christmas Tree Lighting, which is one of the town’s four signature events, is Saturday, Dec. 3, 3 to 8 p.m. at the roundabout to the north of the Marana Municipal Complex. It is the second year the event taken place in the new location and the move allowed the town to expand the event to include more activities.
Not only did they get a bigger tree, but this year the entire area will have more lights and more decorations.
“We think the ambiance will be even more festive this year,” said Marana Special Events Corridinator Monique Meza.
The centerpiece is, of course, the 40-foot Christmas tree.
“This is the first year we are going to actually incorporate the building into the light show,” Meza said. “It should be a pretty spectacular show.”
The lighting and first performance of the show will take place at 6:30 p.m.
There will be plenty of open space by the tree for people to hang out, take photos and walk around the tree.
There will be plenty to do for the kids and the whole family. An area dedicated to kids with a number of inflatables returns, with a variety of ways for kids to play.
The newest addition to the festival will be a snow area. Instead of just a snow machine like in years past, there will be shaved ice children can play in. They will be able to play and make snow men and bring a little bit of a winter wonderland to the desert.
“We want it to feel like you are walking into a snow globe,” Meza said.
Santa Claus returns to Marana. Always one of the more popular features of the event, the town has worked to make it a better experience then one might find at the mall. The line for Santa will also include activities for the kids to do as well as places for parents to sit to make it more of an experience and less like waiting a line. There will also free hot chocolate in conjunction with the Marana Optimists Club for those waiting to reveal their Christmas wishes for the jolly old elf.
“That way their experience to go see Santa is a whole experience, not just waiting in line,” Meza said. “That is what we want, to make everything an experience. From the moment that they drive in on campus until they leave to be an experience for them.”
Santa arrives at about 3:20 p.m. and Meza said they are planning a fun, special entrance for him.
In the roundabout they will feature a variety of entertainment. There will be dancers, singers, an orchestra and for the first time, a theater group. The performances, which will be put on by local schools such as Marana High School, Thornydale Elementary and the Leman Academy as well as youth and church organizations, will run in intervals from 3 to 8 p.m.
There will be a combination of stand-up and standard seating, most which will also be in position to watch the tree come to life later in the evening.
This year the town is creating a Holiday Marketplace, which will be a central location for all of the non-food vendors. The marketplace is being sponsored by the Marana Food Bank who will have their own flea market on location which will give folks a chance to get some holiday shopping in, while also raising money for the food bank.
The holiday classic “Elf” starring Will Ferrell will be shown in the lot between the municipal complex and the Marana Health Center.
“It gives kids a chance to kind of sit and relax if they are done seeing Santa or just need something different to do,” Meza said. She also said there will be some other kids-centric activities in the movie area.
16 food vendors will be on hand, occupying the street East of the tree. There will be a variety of food options barbecue, Italian, doughnuts, ice cream, hot dogs and local favorites like Chuy’s, La Garrafa and the Marana Heritage Conservancy’s famous kettle corn.
Last year about 5,000 and this year they expect to eclipse that by 1,000.
“Each of our events have grown from the year before, so we are expecting that again,” Meza said.
For those who cannot make the event but still want to see the light show it will run every hour from 5 to 9 p.m. beginning Monday, Dec. 5 until New Year’s Eve.
There is plenty of parking at the event. The main parking will be at the MHC covered lot, with additional parking in the dirt lots adjacent to the MHC and their employee parking will also be made available. Handicap parking will be available in the guest lot of the Marana Municipal Complex.