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Christos Makropoulos
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A Chandler Christmas: one of the city’s oldest traditions returns

It's officially Christmas in Chandler.

The Parade of Lights made its 67th return to Chandler after rainy weather in 2022 led to the parade’s cancellation. This year’s parade and Tumbleweed Tree Lighting were held on Dec. 2, with thousands of Christmas lights parading through downtown. 

Over 40 groups from all around Chandler and the state were in the parade – nonprofits like the Girl Scouts, multiple dance groups and high school marching bands – all playing different variations of beloved carols, from hip-hop edits of "Here Comes Santa Claus" to live playings of "Deck The Halls." 

Even Santa rode with firefighters along Arizona Ave. as Jeeps and pickup trucks tangled in lights passed by.

The parade then gave way to the nationally-recognized Tumbleweed Tree Lighting. 

The tree stands at over 30 feet tall and around 20 feet wide. Chandler Mayor Kevin Hartke said it’s made entirely out of over 1,000 tumbleweeds, “[with] 25 gallons of white paint and 20 gallons of fire retardant, so don’t even think about that.” He also said it’s decorated with 65 pounds of glitter and 1,200 LED lights.

The tradition goes all the way back to the late 1950’s: according to city legend, a fire destroyed many decorations in the town, and the people replaced them with the tree. However, news at the time and other first-hand accounts tell that the tree came about by decorator Earle Barnum as an alternative to newly-installed light poles that were too flimsy to support decorative lights. 

The city’s website says the tree was treated like an afterthought compared to the 80 cotton boll wreaths mounted on every light pole in downtown and along the avenue, but it eventually gained popularity among the newspapers at the time. 

Melissa Chavez, a student at Chandler High, said she likes hanging out with her friend at such Christmas-themed events. 

“I picture [my friend and her family] as a part of my family, and it just brings us all together,” she said.

The tree will be lit nightly until early January in the Dr. A. J. Chandler Park, and free pictures of families will be taken on Dec. 12 from 6 - 8 p.m.

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