Carefree Christmas Festival to instill old-time holiday spirit

By Curtis Riggs | November 26, 2008

Santa, snow, more!

CAREFREE – Downtown merchants have a request as people ponder the upcoming holiday season.

“Think snow” is the theme for the Carefree Christmas Festival, which will be held along Easy Street and in the Town Center Dec. 12 through 14. Merchants and festival organizers are asking locals and visitors alike to “think snow” to get into the spirit for the free three-day holiday festival.

A parade of lights will be held along Easy Street and throughout downtown at 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 12. Festival co-organizer Jo Gemmill said floats; bands and parade entries are welcome for the Friday night parade as long as they are covered in lights. Santa will be delivered to Santa’s Grotto (Town Center Amphitheater) in a vintage fire truck at the end of the parade. Children will share their Christmas wishes with Santa at Santa’s Cottage. Kids, and likely a few adults, can have their picture taken on his lap from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday.
Cinderella, who will ride in her fairy tale pumpkin carriage, will also be a parade guest of honor.

Gemmill said parade lovers should show up early on Friday as a large crowd is expected from throughout the Valley.

In keeping with the Christmas Festival theme, carolers, musicians and street entertainers will be wandering through downtown Carefree throughout the three-day festival. The main holiday attraction throughout the weekend will be the snow, which will be falling in the Town Center amphitheater. Horse-drawn carriage rides will add to the old-time Christmas feeling.
Rural Metro firefighters will be roasting marshmallows for the kids in the Town Center gardens just off the amphitheater. There will also be a live nativity scene in the Town Center.

Street vendors will be offering roasted chestnuts, hot chocolate and other Christmas favorites throughout the festival. Caroling, strolling, carriage rides and many more Santa sightings will take place at the Festival throughout the weekend.

A Festival of Trees charity fund-raiser will be held during the Christmas festival. Local non-profit groups will decorate Christmas trees, which will be on display in Los Portales Mall throughout the weekend. Festival visitors will bid on the trees with the proceeds going to the non-profit group.

A festival highlight on Sunday, Dec. 14 will be the Arizona School of Ballet’s performance of the Nutcracker Suite on the stage in the Town Center amphitheater from 1 to 2 p.m.

Gemmill, who with Wild Holly Gallery’s Holly Bergman organized the festival, said the Christmas festival is about “celebrating the holidays in our own home town.” She likens the festival to a strolling event, which will entice visitors to amble through downtown Carefree to explore the shops and sample the Christmas goodies.

“The gas lamps will add to the ambiance and give it that festival feeling,” she said.
For festival information visit

Photo by Curtis Riggs
Santa’s Cottage is under construction in Santa’s Grotto (Carefree Town Center amphitheater). The cottage and grotto will be key aspects of the Carefree Christmas Festival, which will be held in downtown Carefree, Dec. 12 through 14.