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Holiday tradition continues with tower lighting Saturday
Desert Sun Stadium to host pageant
A longtime Yuma holiday tradition continues this Saturday night with the annual lighting of the water tower at Friendship Park.
Sometime around 7:30 p.m., the 200-foot tower will come alive with lights as hundreds of bulbs are illuminated, giving it the effect of a Christmas tree that can be seen from miles around.
“It has grown into an event Yuma expects and signifies the start of the holiday season,” said Caballero Doug Nicholls, event chair for the Ken and Betty Borland Holiday Pageant and Friendship Tower Lighting.
A tradition that spans several decades, the event begins at 6:30 p.m. at Desert Sun Stadium, 1280 W. Desert Sun Drive with the holiday pageant - complete with dance and musical performances - and end with the lighting of the tower.
Among the groups performing will be the Yuma Ballet Theater, Dance Makers, Jazz of Yuma, and Desert Point Productions. Around 2,000 people each year turn out for the event, which is now in its 27th year.
The program, which lasts about an hour, culminates with the lighting of the water tower, which will remain lit each night through the New Year's holiday.
To make the massive Christmas tree, the water tower is decorated with vertical wires that are covered in lights and run from the ground skyward to the tower's tip. The whole twinkling display requires almost 900 lights.
Special guests will be 2011 Yuma County Citizens of the Year Fred and Carolyn Hoffmeyer, who will also have will also have the distinct honor of pushing the plunger that lights up the tower. Nicholls said he expects temperatures for the event to be in the low- to mid-70s.
Suggested admission is one or more items of nonperishable food, which will be donated to the Yuma Community Food Bank to help feed the 24,000 to 26,000 people that it serves each month, especially with the holiday season right around the corner.
Nicholls said there is a rumor that Santa will be arriving after the lighting ceremony.
Put on by the Caballeros de Yuma, the event is named after Ken Borland, a former president of Arizona Western College and a Caballero member who started the program in 1986, and his wife. He died in 2006.
The idea of decorating the tower started with Caballeros Vonne Nicklaus and Wayne Hausman, both of whom had seen something similar done at Sea World.