Country Financial float (copy)

Santa Claus and Cindy-Lou Who ride in a sleigh pulled by a dragon, a unicorn and Rudolph in the first-place-winning Country Financial float in the 22nd annual Light Parade on Safford’s Main Street in 2019.

Merry Main Street, Safford’s Light Parade and the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony didn’t happen last year because of COVID-19, but this year, they’re coming back brighter than ever thanks to the Safford Downtown Association and local sponsors.

“It’s the most idyllic small town thing,” Danny Smith, the president of the Safford Downtown Association and a supervisor on the Graham County Board of Supervisors said about past holiday events. “I think it’s really neat. If you just landed here from somewhere else and saw Merry Main Street, you’d think about moving here.”

Smith said when he first got involved in organizing the Light Parade, the only person who showed up was dressed in a Martian costume and walked up and down Main Street with a police escort. This year, Smith is expecting 50 floats, decked out in Christmas lights, to parade down Main Street and many, many more people than just one guy dressed as a Martian.

The Light Parade event, officially called the Country Financial Light Parade this year thanks to a sponsorship, will be held December 4 on Main Street. Before the parade, the Safford Dance Academy, Gila Cheer and local bands will perform and Santa Claus will visit the Safford Historic Theater.

Merry Main Street, which this year will be called the Ponderosa Air Ambulance’s Merry Main Street and the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, which this year will be officially called the Freeport-McMoran Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, will both take place on November 26.

Normally the cost of all the events comes close to $20,000, Smith said. This is the first year the downtown association has accepted corporate sponsorships to help finance the events. Previously, the Merry Main Street event and the Christmas tree lighting ceremony were included in the same event, but because two different businesses agreed to sponsor the same event, the downtown association agreed to refer to them separately.

The tree lighting ceremony will happen just before the Merry Main Street event at 5:30 pm in front of Safford City Hall.

Merry Main Street will include craft stations, bounce houses, gingerbread house building contents, a treasure hunt for gift cards to local businesses and slides “a couple of stories tall,” Smith said. There will also be other activities for kids and families, all free.

This year, Smith said, the downtown association will try to alleviate lines for activities and “keep kids moving” by spreading out crowds.

Santa Claus as well as Mrs. Claus will also be at present at the Merry Main Street event. Santa will be at the Safford Historic Theater and Mrs. Claus will be at Main Street Cafe accepting Christmas letters from kids meant for Santa.

Not only are the events meant to celebrate the holiday season, but also to introduce, or reintroduce, people to businesses downtown, Smith said.

“The health of your downtown is a bellwether of your city,” Smith said. “When it seems like people love it, you feel a whole lot better about moving there.”

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