Mon, March 30

City Council considers investment in Cottonwood's Christmas light show

Cottonwood City Council members spent about an hour during Tuesday's work session discussing the music-choreographed light display popular in Old Town during the last couple of Christmas seasons.

Cottonwood wants to "up the ante" by acquiring Dave Kessel's Cornville Christmas Show.

Kessel, of Yavapai Broadcasting, has built a huge Christmas display at his home over the past decade. He told the city that it's time to retire his long-running Christmas light show find a new home for it. Since he and the radio station first established Cottonwood's Old Town show, he says the city has the first right of refusal.

Kessel said the Cornville show now includes a computer, thousands of LED lights, and 45 separate controllers. It uses a 45 minute long music show.

He is asking $5,000 for the lot, an amount he estimates is about a fraction of its original cost. City officials have long talked about spreading the Christmas display lights north along Main Street, through the business district. Council members are generally enthusiastic with a couple councilmen sharing their reservations.

Councilman Tim Elinski understands the economic benefit, but reminded the gathering that the show attracts lots of traffic and that could be an issue for Old Town with its narrow streets.

Randy Garrison noted that he has "A lot of concerns. He pointed to the cost to set up, take down and store the materials. In addition, the product needs to be maintained and updated creatively, said Garrison.

He recalled hearing Kessel talk about the lengthy time needed to program each minute of music. He wanted to understand the value of the show related to the expense of time involved.

Jesse Dowling suggested the display might be presented at the Old Town Activity Park, but security is always an issue, Kessel reminded.

The council discussed the possibility of other parks as well, but security and available electrical outlets seemed to stymy all those opportunities. Old Town remains the best option, said Community Services Director Richard Faust.

Mark Larimore, who works with the city on grounds, said each year it takes three guys about 10 days to set up the show.

"It's wildly successful," admits Elinski of the light show, "But we should have a plan. It's going to be a lot of work. We have to be creative."

Old Town Association President Mitch Levy would be able to help, but not to manage the entire show. In terms of traffic congestion, he suggested that the road could be blocked off with cars directed to parking lots and the show opened on a pedestrian basis.

"I thought the cost is reasonable and is a once in a lifetime opportunity," Mayor Diane Joens said.

Kessel said when the news was distributed that he would end the Cornville Show he said he was approached by the towns of Camp Verde and Sedona, the Catholic Church and others.

According to Kessel, his show was popular enough that he was able to raise about $6,000 each year for the Old Town Mission simply from a donation jar he put out each year.

The issue is expected to return to a regular council meeting to focus the planning and approve the expenditure.

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