Queen Creek’s holiday festival, parade will be big with a small-town feel

Members of Club Dance participated in the Queen Creek Festival and Parade in previous years. (Independent Newspapers/Wendy Miller)

Members of Club Dance participated in the Queen Creek Festival and Parade in previous years. (Independent Newspapers/Wendy Miller)

 
The 33rd Annual Queen Creek Holiday Festival and Parade will take place this Saturday, Dec. 5, and organizers say each of the events could max out on the number of entries.

Ninety-five vendors out of a maximum of 100 had already registered for the holiday festival, festival coordinator Tiffany Schultz of the Levitate Agency said during a phone interview Nov. 24. In addition, about 55 parade entries involving about 1,000 participants had signed up as of press time Nov. 24, parade coordinator Monica O’Toole said during a phone interview. The parade can accommodate up to 70 entries, depending on their size, Ms. O’Toole said.

The festival and parade are hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Queen Creek and the Queen Creek Chamber of Commerce. The festival begins at noon and the parade starts at 3:30 p.m.

The parade will head north on Old Ellsworth Road from Sierra Park Boulevard (south of Ocotillo) toward Victoria Lane. It will end at the Queen Creek Branch Library and Recreation Annex, 21802 S. Ellsworth Road, where attendees may attend the holiday festival until 9 p.m. The festival will feature crafts and food vendors, live local entertainment, activities and free photos with Santa Claus. The annual tree lighting ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m.

People, organizations and businesses had until end of day Nov. 27 to submit their applications, according to the event website.

Festival

This year’s holiday festival will be the community’s largest to date, Chris Clark, Queen Creek Chamber of Commerce president/CEO, said during a phone interview.

“There has been an online campaign that has gone viral. We’ve been listed in all the visitor publications and calendar listings across the Valley, and there have been spots on TV and radio,” Mr. Clark said.

Since the festival has grown to near capacity vendor-wise, the Kiwanis Club and chamber decided to hire the Levitate Agency, the company that also produced the town of Queen Creek’s Bacon, Blues and Brews and Vintage and Vino events, to produce the holiday event.

“This is the 11th year the Kiwanis Club has done the event and with so much growth, we’ve stretched our resources,” Kiwanis Club President Jerry Waling said during a phone interview.

Mr. Clark said he and the festival/parade committee are working with Ms. Schultz to make sure everything runs smoothly for the festival. He said he served as committee chairman for several years prior to joining the chamber and knows many of the small details that could be overlooked the first year a new group oversees such an undertaking.

“There’s the extensive permitting process, there are so many people in so many places. There is a substantial amount of parking and traffic to be controlled. It’s too big for any one group or person to handle,” Mr. Clark said.

Hiring an outside firm to handle the festival should help to keep the event from outgrowing the community, according to Mr. Clark.

“I don’t think it’s getting too big,” he said. “As Queen Creek grows and matures, it will become a larger and larger event each year but we want to maintain the small town feel. The parade will never become as big as the APS parade (in downtown Phoenix). We want the events to still be about your neighbors and local boys and girls.”

The two biggest challenges of the holiday festival and parade are finding enough space for the festival and maintaining access to businesses along the parade route, Mr. Clark said.

Festival vendors, free photo with Santa

About 75 percent of the food and craft vendors are from Queen Creek, San Tan Valley and the outlying communities, Ms. Schultz said. There will be a variety of food vendors at the festival, including food trucks Moustache Pretzel, Poutine, Waffle Crush and Daily Bread, Ms. Schultz said.

Food vendors also will sell coffee and hot chocolate, hot dogs, Indian fry bread and funnel cake, ice cream and barbecue items.

In addition, there will be vendors selling arts and crafts, jewelry, vintage items, restored furniture, clothing and accessories, she said.

“This is a good place for shopping for gifts for the holidays or yourself,” Ms. Schultz said.

About 15 tons of snow will be trucked in for the kids’ zone, which also will feature a crafting area sponsored by A Brighter Avenue, a Queen Creek-based physical therapy clinic.

Kids will be able to make for free a holiday picture frame in which to place their free photo with Santa Claus.
The latter is sponsored by Walgreens, 21212 E. Ocotillo Road in Queen Creek.

“We are so happy about this,” store manager Rose Kavanaugh said during a phone interview. “We’re giving the people a free 5×7 photo that they can take and make as many copies as they want. There are no photo copyrights to worry about.”

Ms. Kavanaugh and a photo specialist from the Queen Creek Walgreens will set up and take the photos, she said.

Parade

This year’s theme is “Toyland Christmas.” Parade entries will be judged by a panel of volunteers in three categories: originality, holiday theme and overall appearance, Ms. O’Toole said.

She said she has learned a lot during her 10 years working on the parade. Not to yell in front of a horse, for example, noting the year her loud voice spooked a horse and it reared up and almost hurt her.

 

Frosty the Snowman walked in an earlier Queen Creek Festival and Parade. (Independent Newspapers/Wendy Miller)

Frosty the Snowman walked in an earlier Queen Creek Festival and Parade. (Independent Newspapers/Wendy Miller)

 

Then there was her first year as coordinator when then Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Mike Lucas started the parade without her.

“He was trying to get everything together and running on time, and he didn’t know me that well back then; he probably didn’t know who to ask,” Ms. O’Toole said with a laugh.

She said people watched and wondered why she was running after the first three parade entries and yelling for them to stop, adding Mr. Lucas, who is now retired from MCSO, served as grand marshal at a later parade. There have been a number of changes since she took over the parade a decade ago. For one, the parade route took place along Ocotillo Road between Old Ellsworth and Hawes roads.

“Ellsworth Loop did not exist. Once the loop was built, we switched the route to the downtown area (on Old Ellsworth Road) to get more of a hometown feel and to drive people to the businesses there,” Ms. O’Toole said.

The groups creating the entries have shifted from businesses to schools over the past few years, Ms. O’Toole said.

Nearly all the schools in Queen Creek plus some from the outlying communities have registered to participate, she said.

Members of the Girls Scouts Arizona Cactus Pine Council, San Tan Neighborhood, which includes the Queen Creek, San Tan Valley and Higley school districts, will have a large presence in the parade, troop leader Trudy Miller said during a phone interview.

About 180 girls in all levels of scouting will march in the parade, she said. Each will receive a fun patch for their participation. Each troop is decorating a red wagon in the parade theme, Ms. Miller said.

“It’s a really fun community event,” she said.

For more information, visit the event website.

News Editor Wendy Miller can be contacted at 480-982-7799 and via e-mail at qcnews@newszap.com, or follow her on Twitter @WendyNewszap123.

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