It's time to get merry on Main Street

Workers install refrigerant piping for the Plaza at Mesa City Center holiday ice skating rink, Tuesday, November 15, 2022, in Mesa Arizona. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

The weather forecast looks fine in the East Valley for next week, but there’s a strong chance of holiday cheer appearing on Main Street starting Friday.

Watch for ice in the Mesa City Plaza and consider donning gay apparel before leaving the house.

Mesa’s 40-day downtown holiday celebration Merry Main Street kicks off at 5 p.m. Nov. 25 with music by the Mesa City Band at the big Christmas tree at Main Street and Macdonald.

Also at 5 p.m., the Mesa Temple Christmas Lights return to the renovated temple grounds after a four-year hiatus.

Santa Claus is rumored to be stopping downtown when the city officially lights up the Mesa Christmas tree at 5:45 p.m.

The 6,000-square-foot Winter Wonderland Ice Rink opens for the season at 6 p.m. and music and food from the Jack Frost Food Truck Forest continues until 10 p.m.

The rink, open daily 5 to 10 p.m. weekdays and 12 to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, is larger this year than previous years.

During Hanukkah, which begins Dec. 18, Mesa’s official 12-foot tall menorah at Macdonald will add a light each night of the holiday.

Mayor John Giles said the six weeks of festivities belong to a decades-old tradition of celebrating the holidays in downtown Mesa that the city has worked to reinvigorate.

“When I was a kid growing up here … it was a big deal. The city would rollout decorations that were hung on the light poles in downtown Main Street,” Giles said.

“Forever it’s been a tradition of downtown and Mesa being a great place to celebrate the holidays.”

Giles pointed out that this year, the city Plaza Park on Main Street – next to the new Arizona State University film and digital media building – will be fully open, and the large screen on the ASU building will project holiday videos and music.

“It’s really going to be a really special atmosphere,” Giles said. “In all humility, I think it’s going to be probably one of, if not the best, places to celebrate the holidays in the Valley.”

Merry Main Street is in its eight year, and the city and community partners have lined up a large array of things to see, do and watch downtown.

Numerous special events like holiday shows at the Mesa Arts Center, markets and scavenger hunts are scheduled Thursdays through Sundays throughout the season – in addition to the daily ice skating and Christmas lights.

The Mesa Santa Express converts a light rail car into a holiday train with songs, cookies and Kris Kringle and runs Dec. 9, 10, 16 and from 6 to 10 p.m. Rides are free but rider need a commemorative ticket.

The city has set up a simple website dedicated to Merry Main Street with a calendar for seeing when and where everything is taking place at merrymainst.com.

“Regardless of your religious tradition, the holidays are a special time of year for everyone, and so we want to create an atmosphere where people can create family memories, especially for their children,” Giles said.

Santa will not be the only one working during the Merry Main Street kickoff.

Giles and local actors will recreate a true and funny story from the holidays in Mesa in 1932 called “The Man Who Killed Santa Claus.”

The performance recreates the story of triumph over failure as downtown merchants planned to have Santa parachute down on the city from an airplane in the Lindbergh era and the dummy used in the stunt fell to the ground without the parachute opening, horrifying hundreds of children.

The story is told in an old-time radio-style format with live music by special guests.

“The Man Who Killed Santa Claus” will be shown at the MAC immediately following the lighting of the Christmas tree and will be recorded for a future episode of the It’s Always Cool in Mesa podcast.

Giles invited residents to bring their family and out-of-town relatives to check out a Mesa Christmas tradition that has something for everyone.

“There’s something about the spirit of the season that is magical, and we want downtown Mesa to be one of the best places in the Valley to experience that,” Giles.

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