Fresh Coat Of Christmas

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Art students at Rim Country Middle School have caught an early case of Christmas spirit.

For two days last week, 88 students in teacher Michael Stern’s six art classes merrily repainted the 200 Christmas cutouts, most made by former Payson Mayor Ray Schum, that adorn Main Street during the holiday season. They’re the same cutouts that graced Payson Town Hall for several years as part of the Santa Claus Lane display.

“Some of the them go back a ways, and they needed repainting.” Schum said. “It’s a great project for the kids to get involved in.”

The ex-Marine said he began painting the cutouts when he was stationed in Panama for three years. “Even before I went to Panama, I had more lights than the average Marine had,” Schum said, “but I didn’t take them down there because I figured they don’t celebrate Christmas in the tropics. I got down there and discovered they put more emphasis on Christmas decorations than I had ever seen. July or December every day’s the same down there and they had to create the Christmas season. So that’s how I got started and I just kept it up.

“When I lived in Vista (California) I won the Christmas decorating contest four or five years in a row, then we moved to Banning and I won it six or seven times in a row. I came over here and I won it like eight times over here.”

While most of the RCMS students were painting their first Christmas decorations, at least one was a seasoned veteran.

“My mom’s a good painter and I’ve helped her with Christmas decorations before,” sixth grader Cody Turner said.

Although most of Stern’s students were novices, they took to the task with energy and enthusiasm, finishing all 200 cutouts in just two days.

“Some of them were just a couple years old and just needed to be touched up,” Stern said. “But there were others that had definitely been out on the street awhile.”

After Thanksgiving, the refurbished decorations will be placed in front of individual businesses and at Green Valley Park. They’ll join other decorations purchased last year with a $5,200 grant from Arizona Public Service.

Christmas on Main Street culminates Saturday, Dec. 7, at 6 p.m. with the Main Street/Arizona Public Service Electric Light Parade. The parade runs from Sawmill Crossing to Green Valley Park and concludes with caroling and the arrival of Santa Claus.

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