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Thu, Oct. 17

Tree lighting next week
Annual Christmas tree extravaganza nearly here

Though a number of Build-a-Village sites have already been taken, organizer Diana Croteau said there is still plenty of room for more.

Though a number of Build-a-Village sites have already been taken, organizer Diana Croteau said there is still plenty of room for more.

Excitement is brewing for this year's Christmas celebration in downtown Williams. The event, set for Nov. 23, has many in Williams feeling the holiday spirit and is sure to offer an evening of yuletide thrills for both locals and visitors alike. A number of events are slated to begin at 3 p.m. and continue until the arrival of Santa Claus and the highly anticipated lighting of the Christmas tree in downtown Williams - both scheduled for 6 p.m.

The majority of the events will be held at the corner of Second Street and Route 66, according to Christmas Committee Chairperson Diana Croteau, with stages situated in front of Russ Lyon Realty and the Jeep Tours business. Live remotes are also scheduled for the event with entertainment slated to rotate roughly every 30 minutes. Croteau said she estimates that 3,000 or more individuals will attend this year's lighting. Roughly 2,000 attended last year's event.

This year's tree, Croteau said, is expected to be in place sometime today.

"Grand Canyon Railway is cutting the tree and bringing it in for us. The Forest Service is giving us a permit to do it. The one we have picked is north of town," she said.

This year marks the third year for the holiday show, called "The Magic of Christmas in Williams" and will offer two stages for entertainment in the downtown area. From 3-6 p.m., audiences will be given the opportunity to watch Andy Hersey and his band as well as a number of other shows, including the Fantasy Makers Marionettes and the Magical Michael Steel, who will offer illusions, yo-yo tricks and juggling for the evening.

"He's been a professional entertainer for 28 years, a former Duncan yo-yo demonstrator and he was an elementary school teacher for 14 years," Croteau said. "He does illusions, yo-yos, juggling and music and he will do two half-hour performances for us."

The Fantasy Makers Marionettes, she added, will be performing a style of strolling puppetry.

"The strolling marionettes will be Popo and Crystal," Croteau said. "And then, beginning at 4:30, we have the Dickens Carolers from down in the Phoenix area. They've been doing this since 1983. It's a quartet. The Bill Williams Mountain Men will (also) be downtown greeting people. They are sending several people down to that."

Smokey the Bear, as well as the Coca-Cola Bear, Rudolph and Frosty will also be on hand for spectators to meet. Russ Walton, of Jack of All Pipes, will emcee the event. A live nativity is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. as well. Another treat for fans of the holidays is the official opening of the Williams Ice Skating Rink, which is slated to open its doors at 4:30 p.m.

"The community has really, really gotten involved with this. People are calling me wanting to be a part of it. Sponsorships are great for the whole thing, selling trees, everything that we've got available is doing really well. This event is really taking off," Croteau said.

Grand Canyon Railway, as in year's past, is the title sponsor for the 2007 Magic of Christmas in Williams celebration. Other sponsors include Bankers Real Estate, Arizona Public Service, Swire Coca-Cola, Russ Lyon Realty of Williams, the city of Williams and many more.

Besides the Nov. 23 event, officials with the Christmas Committee are also involved with the "Build-a-Village" display at the east end of town, as well as sponsorships for little Christmas trees for use at the ice skating rink and other locations in Williams.

"What we do is we go out and take a picture of your building and we do a façade to match it. It's $150 to have one done, if we do it all, if we cut it and paint it. If you decide you want to decorate it and paint it, it's $100," Croteau said, who added that a number of villages are already on display at the east end of Williams.

"There are villages up, but we can still add to it," she said.

Information on the tree lighting event, as well as the committee's other Christmas programs, can be found online at www.themagicofchristmasinwilliams.com.

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