Sedona consistently ranks as one of the most beautiful places in the world.
International travel writers gush over the magnificence that we enjoy every day. Can you imagine what they'd say about Tlaquepaque's Festival of Lights and the enchanting 6,000 luminarias, aglow, and lining its village walls and courtyards just a few weeks from now?
Once again it's time for the 35th Annual Festival of Lights at Tlaquepaque, the Art and Soul of Sedona. Everyone, young and young at heart, is invited to the fun-filled holiday celebration beginning Friday evening Dec. 12 and the lighting of the luminarias on Saturday, Dec. 13 from 3-8 p.m.
The Festival of Lights for all Arizonans and beyond marks the holiday season with the beautifully moving ritual that brings families, friends, and visitors together in a joyful expression of hope, celebration and best wishes for the coming year. A fantastic line-up of holiday music and Christmas carols including the favorite, high-energy River of Life Tabernacle Choir, "Jazz a la Mode" from the Chavez Jazz Trio, Red Rock Apella, Vibhas, Patrick Ki, Sedona Swing, the Urban String Quartet, Tom and Shondra and the Canyon Signers will bring smiles and holiday cheer to everyone.
A holiday concert in the Tlaquepaque Chapel on Friday, Dec. 12 from 3 to 6 p.m. kicks off the festive weekend with lead singers Ron Tolson and Bryan Pace of the River of Life Tabernacle Choir, who are the headliners for Saturday's Festival of Lights. With their deeply penetrating voices and perfect harmonies Tolson and Pace move their audience to their core.
"Come Friday night and enjoy the concert then come back on Saturday to help light the luminaries and hear the entire choir," recommends Tlaquepaque's managing partner, Wendy Lippman.
On Saturday the 13, gather your family and friends for a full afternoon and evening of festivities starting in Patio Del Norte at 3 p.m. with the arrival of Santa Claus and his elf, accompanied by Sedona's Tom and Shondra belting out Christmas favorites.
During the afternoon candles will be passed out in anticipation of the lighting ceremony. Listen for the tolling of the bells from Tlaquepaque's famous bell tower at 5 p.m. to signal the beginning. Kids, parents grandparents and travelers from all over will enjoy lighting their candles and placing them in the luminaria bags. Not long after, the stunning spectacle of light, over 6,000 luminarias is complete.
At Plaza de la Fuente from 5:30 to 8 p.m. crowds will be treated to the full- throttle, perfect harmonies of the 100-person River of Life Tabernacle Choir. Astounding in their mastery of song, their repertoire is both traditionally seasonal and inspiring gospel.
For the fifth year, cancer survivors will be honored and those that lost their lives to cancer will be remembered by dedicating a luminaria in their name. Names of survivors or special messages of hope are drawn on each bag, the candle is lit and the luminarias are placed around the fountain at Patio del Norte. Donations (suggested at $10 for each bag and candle) are gratefully accepted by the American Cancer Society. "It is important at this time of year among all the fun and family get-togethers to remember those that are heroically fighting this terrible disease or who overcame it... as well as those who did not. In a small way we pause to honor them," offers Lippman.
Tlaquepaque will participate in the nationwide Toys for Tots program, sponsored every Christmas by the U.S. Marine Corps. Over 13.9 million toys are distributed annually to kids in need. "This Christmas is an especially important time to think of those who would really appreciate a new gift wrapped toy. Please consider bringing a toy for a tot to the Festival of Lights," says Lippman.
Admission to the Festival of Lights is free. The Tlaquepaque shops and galleries will be open until 8 p.m. for fabulous holiday shopping. Out of town visitors and locals should head to the Uptown Municipal Parking Lot where the Sedona Trolly will provide free shuttle service every 15 minutes from 3-8 p.m.
Tlaquepaque, the Art and Soul of Sedona, now in its 36th year, is located at 336 Highway 179 at the Oak Creek Bridge just south of 89A on Highway 179. It is open daily at 10 a.m. For more information call (928) 282-4838,