WILLIAMS - It's starting to look a lot like Christmas in Williams. The Williams community Christmas tree arrived last Friday and was placed in the center of the road at Route 66 and Second Street.
A crowd of onlookers watched as crews from Grand Canyon Railway, city of Williams and APS erected the 47-foot tree. The tree will be decorated this week in anticipation of the tree lighting to take place this Saturday.
Officials with the Williams-Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce expect 85,000 people to visit Williams during the six weeks of Mountain Village Holiday from Nov. 28-Jan. 9. This year's theme is "A Time for Christmas, Christmas Time in Williams."
This year, the spectacular parade of lights and community tree lighting will be combined and held on one evening. The parade of lights begins at 7 p.m. Saturday and will proceed east on Route 66. The tree lighting will immediately follow the parade at approximately 8 p.m. The Heritage School Choir will sing carols along with strolling Dickens Carolers.
Sue Atkinson, events coordinator with the Williams-Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce, said the decision to combine the tree lighting and parade was partly a practical one.
"This is the first year that we are combining both the tree lighting and the parade of lights. It was done partly to save money," she said. "The Christmas committee was left with a large amount of debt from last year's event that we had to pay off this year before we could get started. A lot of people don't realize that. We're combining resources. There will be a lot of people in town so we'll do both events in one night. I think it will be beneficial and a lot of fun."
Co-Grand Marshals this year will be Kaibab National Forest and their hot-shot crews, the Williams Volunteer Fire Department and any other local fire departments wishing to participate.
Lighting the tree this year will be Santa Claus. He will be available for pictures and for kids to tell him their Christmas wishes.
The chamber is currently accepting parade entries. All entries must be received by today. Awards will be presented at the chamber's open house and mixer at 5 p.m. Dec. 11.
Residential and business lighting
The 2009 Mountain Village Holiday Lighting Contest begins Monday. Residents must agree to have 500 or more lights in place by Monday and remain up through Jan. 10. A $20 credit will be applied to city of Williams January electric bills for residents with over 500 lights. Lights must be on daily from dusk until 9 p.m. Judging will take place Dec. 2 from 6-9 p.m. by National Honor Society and Future Business Leaders of America students.
Awards will be given in four categories: Best Lighting Effect, Best Depiction of Theme, Best Creativity and Holiday Spirit Prize. Residents with 499 lights or less are eligible for the Holiday Spirit Prize.
Winners will be announced in the Dec. 9 issue of the Williams-Grand Canyon News. Awards will be presented Dec. 11 at the chamber's holiday mixer.
Contest applications are available at the Williams-Grand Canyon Chamber office.
In an effort to draw Polar Express riders into downtown Williams, the Main Street Promotions Committee and the chamber are sponsoring the Stroller Express during this year's Christmas celebration.
Atkinson said she encourages local business owners to offer special holiday promotions such as lunch or dinner specials or free hot chocolate and candy canes.
"This is a promotion we're trying to do for the downtown area," she said. "It's put on by the Main Street Association and the Main Street Promotions Committee. We're asking merchants to let us know if they are running any holiday specials during the Polar Express. Let us promote it for you. The idea is to get people across the tracks and into our downtown areas."
Atkinson has hung a large 3' x 20' banner on the fence of the skate park facing the railway reading "Mountain Village Holiday Stroller Express. Come and experience our historic downtown and magic of Christmas events."
Posters featuring the Stroller Express logo will be posted in storefront windows guiding Polar Express riders to local businesses with holiday specials.
"So these people that come downtown and do the Stroller Express, they're going to know what shops are participating and what things are going on," Atkinson said.
Holiday Craft Show
The annual Holiday Craft show will be held 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday at the Sultana Theater in downtown Williams with a huge raffle to follow the tree lighting. Proceeds will benefit SAVE-MTR (Meant To Rescue), the proposed Animal Holding Facility in Williams. Get your shopping done and support a much-needed animal facility.
Any business that would like to donate for the raffle, should call Nadine at (928) 255-2481 for more information.
For more information on any of the scheduled holiday events, contact the Williams-Forest Service Visitor Center at (928) 635-0273, ext. 210 or visit Williamschamber.com.