'Warming Trend' Forecast For Electric Light Parade

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The long-range forecast for Saturday's fifth running of the Main Street/APS Electric Light Parade indicates a warming trend.

But it's important to remember that the National Weather Service's prognostication is relative -- because the starting point was a forecast low of 21 degrees Monday night. And in fact, a predicted high for Saturday of 54-62 degrees, with a low of 25-31 degrees should still make it plenty "Christmassy" for the big crowd expected to take up positions on Main Street for the parade's 6 p.m. start.

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Roger Freeman is doing the honors as Santa Claus this year.

But unless you live in the Valley, Christmas parades are supposed to occur in cold weather. And unlike last year's event, when the parade meandered through a heavy snow, skies should be partly cloudy.

So bundle up and join your neighbors and friends curbside for what promises to be a wondrous holiday celebration, according to this year's parade chairperson, Judy Pittman.

"We have 45 entries, so we're excited about that, she said. "And the weather forecast is good -- it's supposed to be nice and brisk, but I haven't heard about any snow.

Parade highlights include an appearance by the big guy himself.

"Santa will be in the parade - Santa and Mrs. Claus," Pittman said.

"Actually, he's going to be at the beginning and the end (of the parade)," she added. "He's going to be the grand marshal on a float at the beginning, and he'll be at the end with a surprise."

Roger Freeman is doing the honors as Santa Claus this year.

Freeman, who retired to Payson almost three years ago, has been playing Santa for more than 30 years.

"He's a professional Santa," Pittman said. "He's very good (and he has) a beautiful beard."

Freeman is, in fact, a member of the Amalgamated Order of Real-Bearded Santas.

"I used to shave it off at the end of January and start growing it back again at the end of July, but it never got quite full enough for me," he said. "So 15 years ago I quit shaving.

Several announcing stands will be set up along Main Street to narrate the parade, and the individual entries will vie for a variety of awards. Among the entries are the Payson Longhorn marching band, APS, several churches, Energy West, Lumbermens, the police and fire departments, Roy Haught Excavating, the U.S. Marine Corps, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Rim Country Classic Auto Club, and more.

"We have good variety, so far," Pittman said.

There will also be food and beverage vendors along the parade route.

"Nonprofits are allowed for food and drink, and some of the businesses along Main Street will be open also," Pittman said. There's no charge, but vendors should contact the Main Street office for an assigned location.

Once the parade wends its way from Sawmill Crossing down Main Street to Green Valley Park, the celebration continues.

"We're going to have a tree lighting ceremony for the official Payson town Christmas tree," she said. "And then we're going to have fireworks -- probably 10 or 15 minutes worth.

Although Pittman stopped short of calling it an annual tradition, this is the second year the parade has concluded with fireworks. The first time it happened because the annual Fourth of July fireworks were postponed due to the Willow Fire. Originally rescheduled for Labor Day, they got pushed back to the Electric Light Parade, which worked out just fine.

"Everybody enjoyed it so much we decided to do it again this year," Pittman said. "They worked in the middle of a snowstorm last year, and it was very beautiful."

Pittman has only lived here about 18 months, but she has already established a reputation of sorts.

"I was the only one to decorate a porta-potty last year," she laughed. "That qualified me to run the parade."

Seriously, Pittman is a member of the Main Street Organization Committee, and they happened to need someone to chair this parade.

"I get so excited about the holidays, and I loved the parade last year, even with the snow," she said. "They were nice enough to choose me."

Pittman calls Payson her "Stuckeyville," and hopes that Main Street becomes all that she believes it can be.

"I would really like to see Main Street get developed," she said, "-- little specialty shops and all. I would like this to be a destination, because it is so beautiful."

(Main Street will be closed from Sawmill Crossing to Green Valley Park beginning at 4:30 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to use the Payson High School parking lot and take the free shuttle from the west end of the lot down McLane to the parade route.)

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