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Christmas test changes venues; now single day

Arizona Range News of Willcox, Arizona

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The venue for a time-honored holiday tradition in Willcox has been changed from the Willcox Community Center to Railroad Park.

Responding to rumors that the annual Christmas Festival had been canceled, Willcox Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture Director Alan Baker replied that it had been changed, but not canceled.

"At the August Chamber Board Meeting, it was decided to consolidate the Christmas Festival to Railroad Park and increase the participation with both the festival and the Christmas Lighted Parade," he told the Range News.

"The input the Chamber received from the local ministerial association was that they wanted to support the Christmas Lighted Parade, but that the two-day festival was not something that they would support," said Baker, adding that, "The Chamber also received the same input from musical groups that had participated in the past."

Asked the reason the ministerial association gave, Baker replied, "The reason is, and the board agreed, that it was not supported by the community at that size and needed a change."

"The Chamber Board then made the decision," said Baker, adding that nonetheless, "Teresa (Palmer) and I were working on the event and are continuing to work on the one-day event."

"We are planning on having vendors in the park on Saturday, Dec. 5, and the Lighted Parade at 6 p.m.," he told the Range News.

"Jeff Stoddard and WASA will be having something at the Community Center on Saturday the 5th."

Stoddard, who is co-chairman of Willcox against Substance Abuse (WASA), indicated that WASA had changed its plans for that weekend.

"WASA will not be involved this year, as we don't want to compete with other community events," he told the Range News. Asked if the festival's previous vendors had been notified and invited to participate in the Railroad Park event, Baker replied, "Yes, and we gave them WASA's contact information, too."

Bea Reja, president of Saint Anne's Society, said that she did not receive written notice of the change of venue.

"What I know, I have heard through the grapevine," she told the Range News.

"This would have been our fifteenth year of participating at the community center. It was our biggest fundraiser."

The St. Anne's Society plans to hold its annual bake sale this year in the Sacred Heart Parish Hall, 215 W. Maley St., on Friday, Dec. 4.

The Willcox Art League normally shares space in the Fireplace Room with Friend of the Library (FOL) group, putting on a judged art show.

"The Art League was totally unaware of this change," said its President Lisa Glenn.

"While we had heard rumors, we never have gotten absolute confirmation."

Glenn describes the Christmas festival as "an event that pulled the community together," with an opportunity for area residents to enjoy both books and art in one place, in addition to all the vendors.

"We enjoyed good participation and got a good turnout which was getting larger every year," she told the Range News.

"It's hard to understand why this change was made. There has not been much said about the reason for canceling the Christmas Festival. It's a little mystifying."

Glenn said that the Art League will not be setting up its display in Railroad Park because "we cannot count on the weather. Art is not meant for the outdoors — mostly — and especially not in the winter," and is looking for a different venue this year.

FOL Bookstore Chairman Kathy Klump said the group does not plan to have its booth at Railroad Park.

Instead, its bookstore at 125 E. Maley St., will be open into the evening of Dec. 5, and will have "signed books by local authors," she told the Range News.

For vendors wanting a booth in Railroad Park, the fee is $10 and set-up is at 10 a.m., on Saturday, Dec. 5, said Baker, adding that no vendors are allowed in the street due to the parade route.

While electricity will be available for some vendors at an extra charge, "those spaces are limited," he told the Range News.

Volunteers are needed for the event, as well as anyone willing to provide entertainment — music, magic, etc.

Parade applications are also available for $10. The theme of this year's parade is "Memories of Christmas."

For more information, stop by the Visitor's Center at 1500 N. Circle I Road, or call Teresa Palmer at (520) 384-2272.

The Christmas festival has taken place in Willcox for more than 30 years.

Formerly known as the "Apple Festival," the name of the annual event changed to the "Willcox Western Christmas Festival" in 2013.

Baker explained the reasons behind the name change.

"As the committee worked on the festival, they sought input from local businesses and the apple growers in particular. The response was that the Apple' theme was not as relevant to the community as it had been in the past. The committee, which is comprised of vendors and citizens, decided to drop Apple from the name."

With the encouragement of the Chamber Board, the committee "made the change to 'Western,' as that is appropriate for the culture of Willcox and gives the festival a distinct identity as the Apple' festival did," he said at the time.

Copyright 2015 Arizona Range News, Willcox, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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