Photo caption: Numerous floats adorn downtown Florence Main Street during its annual Christmas on Main event.
by John Nixon, CPRP, Recreation Superintendent, Town of Florence Community Services Department
Ask anyone to describe their most cherished Christmas and holiday memories and chances are you will hear words such as family, snow, presents, lights and hot chocolate.
When Florence resident Alison (Ali) Feliz was asked this question, she remembers the Christmas celebration at Town Hall when she was a young girl in the community.
“Everything took place in the parking lot and inside the building,” she said. “Florence was much smaller then, so all the events were able to fit.”
Feliz is now the special events coordinator for the Town of Florence Community Services Department and responsible for the annual Christmas on Main Parade and holiday celebration. This year it is on Friday, Dec. 7.
She plans and coordinates the event, with preparations beginning the previous spring.
During the past nine years, she expanded Christmas on Main from a small parade to one with over 30 floats and other entries along with other such events as Photos with Santa, a Gingerbread House Contest and the Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest.
From its beginning in the Town Hall parking lot, the annual parade now runs south from Heritage Park through historic Main Street.
Feliz is quick to praise the efforts of those who design and build the parade floats, as well as the other entries.
“Each year, we not only see an increase in entries, but the quality and design in the floats have improved and are impressive,” she said.
Feliz is also pleased with the response from local businesses with their participation and cooperation.
“They’ve decorated their store fronts, hosted some of the contests, made space available for visits with Santa, and are just much more involved with the event,” she said. “Business owners have captured the holiday spirit.”
“The owners often contact me several months in advance of December and ask, ‘What are we doing for Christmas on Main this year?’” Feliz said. “The owners definitely give back to the community.”
From her days as a wide-eyed little girl fascinated with Santa Claus and seeing the holiday lights and ice castles, Feliz now enjoys making Christmas memories for Florence residents and visitors.
“I love bringing the community together and helping them get into the holiday spirit,” she said. We have that small-town feel where there are adequate crowds without people feeling overwhelmed. Everyone also gets the chance to socialize at this event.”
The odds for a measurable snow fall in the desert are practically nonexistent. According to the National Weather Service, the largest amount of snow measured in the Phoenix area and Arizona deserts was 1 inch in 1933 and 1937.
However, Christmas is celebrated with more joy and enthusiasm, when snow accumulates. Feliz solved this by using a machine that produces an artificial snowfall that children and adults enjoy.
“One of my favorite parts of Christmas on Main is when we release the snow from the balcony at the Silver King (plaza),” Feliz said. “It’s great to see the children’s reactions when the snow falls.”
The public can continue its participation with Christmas on Main by voting for a favorite parade entry and store-front decoration. This is done on the Town of Florence Facebook page.
Sponsored by APS, Christmas on Main is at 6 p.m. on Dec. 7 in downtown Florence.
A variety of activities are offered including holiday crafts, food vendors, music and Pictures with Santa.
The evening concludes with the colorful, holiday light parade on Main Street at 7:30 p.m. The parade will include a procession of floats and bands.