Christmas in Carefree Ushers in Holiday Season

The Carefree Desert Gardens illuminated for visitors to the Christmas in Carefree celebrations. Photo: Herbert Hitchon

Christmas in Carefree returns to the Carefree Desert Gardens, with holiday-themed events and special celebrations designed to welcome the spirit of the season.

This year’s official Holiday Tree Lighting will take place Friday, Dec. 6, at 5pm in the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion and at the iconic Carefree Sundial. The giant 25-foot Christmas tree and the Gardens will be illuminated for the first time during the holiday season with thousands of twinkling lights sparkling throughout the desert landscape. The ceremony will include a performance by various Cave Creek Unified School District student choirs, and Santa himself will handle the tree lighting duties. Following the tree lighting, a special screening of the popular holiday film Elf will be held in the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion. Free hot chocolate and holiday treats will be available, along with snacks for purchase, and a holiday gift will be distributed to each child/family in attendance.

Santa makes another appearance in town Breakfast with Santa Saturday, Dec. 7, from 9am to 11am, in the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion. Held in conjunction with Rural Metro Fire’s Holiday Toy Drive, attendees may bring a new toy, canned good or suggested donation of $5 per person for admission, with proceeds benefiting Foothills Food Bank. Enjoy free photos with Santa and a performance of Sing! Sleigh Bells Ring!, a holiday celebration in song featuring talented area youth.

The Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion will resonate with an evening of classic Christmas tunes, harmonies and holly-jolly jazz favorites when area favorites Vicki McDermitt and Chirp, featuring Jerry Donato, take the stage Saturday, Dec. 7, at 6pm. Presented in partnership with Spirit in the Desert and Music Serving the Word Ministries, the evening’s entertainment will be preceded with a performance of holiday favorites from the Cactus Shadows High School Jazz Band, directed by Kevin Brady. Music Serving the Word will be accepting non-perishable food donations, benefiting Foothills Food Bank. This concert is open to the public, and free to attend.

Rounding out the weekend, Pinnacle Creative Arts presents Hope for the Holidays — A WWII Christmas, Sunday, Dec. 8, at 2:30pm in the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion. Step back in time to Christmas Eve 1944 and experience a serviceman’s holiday celebration. Tickets are $15, and available online at www.pinnaclecreativearts.com as well as at the door.

Congregants from Temple Chai, as well as members of the Jewish Social Group of Cave Creek and Carefree, will host the annual Chanukah in Carefree Menorah Lighting every evening at 5:30pm, beginning Sunday, Dec. 22, through Sunday, Dec. 29, in the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion. Local groups and families will be invited to light the menorah each evening, with a special ceremony Sunday, Dec. 22, that will include the Temple Chai cantor and choir. Each evening’s service is open to attendees of all denominations and faiths.

For more information about these events, visit www.christmasincarefree.com or call 480.488.3686.

Carefree Hosts Great Pumpkin Commonwealth Weigh-Off During Enchanted Pumpkin Garden Event

This weekend, Carefree’ s Enchanted Pumpkin Garden becomes even more exciting with the addition of an official Great Pumpkin Commonwealth weigh-off. Several of the best giant gourd growers in the Southwest are bringing their obscenely large, fascinating, ginormous orange orbs to town Saturday, Oct. 19, 11am, at the Community Stage outside of Historic Spanish Village, 7211 East Ho Road in Carefree. Admission for the weigh-off event is free and is open to the public.

This event is in partnership with the Arizona Giant Pumpkin Growers Association with prize money awarded to the heaviest pumpkins attending. Winning pumpkins will be turned into fantastic Halloween creations by master carver Ray Villafane and the carving team at Villafane Studios during the festival.

The Town of Carefree Fifth Annual Enchanted Pumpkin Garden is a one-of-a-kind fall festival celebrating the magic of the Halloween season. The 2019 event takes place Oct. 18–27, with the incredible artistry of Ray Villafane and Villafane Studios’ carvers on display live each day, and their carvings found throughout the four-acre Carefree Desert Gardens. On weekends, this annual event boasts magical Halloween activities for both kids and adults, plus culinary delights and autumnal refreshments including a beer garden, a harvest market and live music.

There is no cost to attend the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off. Entry to the Gardens and Haunted Happenings attractions will require an event wristband at an additional charge. Admission to the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden is $15 Friday–Sunday; $10 Monday–Thursday. Children 2 and under enter for free. Free parking is available in and around the Gardens, and throughout the downtown area. For additional information, visit www.enchantedpumpkingarden.com/giant-pumpkin-weigh-off.


Cover photo: Desert Hearts Photography-Tiffany Copeland

Magical Enchanted Pumpkin Garden Returns to Carefree

Halloween visits the Town of Carefree in the form of whimsical pumpkin carvings from master sculptor Ray Villafane and the Villafane Studios team (www.villafanestudios.com) for a fifth incredible year. The Enchanted Pumpkin Garden, a one-of-a-kind fall festival celebrating the magic of the season, takes place Oct. 18–27, with the amazing artistry of Villafane Studios on display throughout the four-acre Carefree Desert Gardens in downtown Carefree.

Admission to the Gardens will be $15 per person Friday through Sunday, and $10 Monday through Thursday. Children 2 and under are free. Weekdays will feature the talented Villafane Studios carving team creating new and exciting pumpkin artworks, a variety of unique fall-themed edible creations and merchandise, and special Halloween-themed performances throughout the gardens. Weekend entry includes full access to the Gardens, a Harvest Market, live musical performances on two stages, novelty concessions and local food trucks, as well as admission to the Haunted Happenings zone, including a haunted house attraction, giant slide, obstacle course, carnival games, petting zoo, pony rides and more.

New in 2019 is a partnership with the Arizona Giant Pumpkin Growers Association to host an official Great Pumpkin Commonwealth (GPC) Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off Saturday, Oct. 19 at 11am. The best giant gourd growers in the Southwest will be bringing their obscenely large, fascinating, ginormous orange orbs to town, in hopes of squashing the giant pumpkin world record. All of the pumpkins entered in the contest will remain on-site, with Villafane’s team of carvers working their artistry on the gourds live throughout the garden during the remaining days of the event. The Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off is free to attend, and will be held on the Community Stage, just outside of Historic Spanish Village in downtown Carefree.

Photos: Desert Hearts Photography/Tiffany Copeland

Friday and Saturday nights will feature live headline entertainment each evening from 7–9:30pm on the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion stage. Valley favorites The Walkens Band brings their unique blend of country and Southern rock favorites Friday, Oct. 18. Phoenix native and American Idol season 17 favorite Wade Cota performs with his band Saturday, Oct. 19. The second weekend kicks off Friday, Oct. 25 with Rock Lobster playing the biggest music hits of the ’80s and ’90s. The ultimate Steve Miller tribute band, Pompatus of Love, rocks the stage Saturday, Oct. 26, featuring Steve Miller Band and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist Greg Douglass.

Additional weekend event highlights include: Bashas’ “Adopt a Pumpkin” patch, with proceeds benefiting Desert Foothills YMCA; a Harvest Market, featuring a variety of fall-themed vendor goods and autumnal treats; the Jack O’Lantern beer garden with seasonal craft beers provided by Four Peaks Brewery, operated by the Sonoran Arts League; and the Haunted Happenings area, with family-friendly attractions for kids of all ages. Popular holiday-themed activities include pie-eating contests both weekends, sponsored by Venues Café; and costume contests for kids, adults and pets Sunday, Oct. 27. Other special events will round out the week.

For hours of operation, event schedules and more information about this annual Halloween attraction, visit www.enchantedpumpkingarden.com or call 480.488.3686.

Carefree to Host Annual Veterans Day Honor

Veterans and residents of Carefree attend the 2017 event in the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion. Photo courtesy of the Town of Carefree

In commemoration of their service, the Town of Carefree is privileged to host its 10th annual Veterans Day Honor and Celebration Sunday, Nov. 11, from 3–5pm, in the Carefree Desert Gardens, 101 Easy Street, at the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion stage.

This year’s celebration will reflect on the 100th anniversary of the Armistice ending World War I and honor those veterans who have participated in this event in previous years.

Speakers will include retired Army Maj. Arden Rowley, a Korean War veteran and POW who will share his wartime experiences. This year’s event will also feature a mixture of patriotic and military music, with a special rendition of “God Bless America” by Todd Knowles and the Main Event Swing Band, marking the 100th anniversary of the patriotic classic, as well as “The Last Post” on the bugle, followed by “Taps” performed on dueling bugles.

Barbara Hatch, founder of Veterans Heritage Project (VHP), will be in attendance with VHP chapter students from Cactus Shadows High School and Sonoran Trails Middle School. There will be a student exhibit, with books for sale at the event.

For more information, visit http://www.carefree.org or call 480.488.3686.

Enchanted Pumpkin Garden Returns for Fourth Year

Enjoy live carving demonstrations and magical Halloween festivities

Visit Gourdy Gooligan and his Carefree Hooligans at this year’s Enchanted Pumpkin Garden. Photos courtesy of Villafane Studios

Halloween invades the Town of Carefree in the form of whimsical pumpkin carvings from master sculptor Ray Villafane and the Villafane Studios team for a fourth year. The Enchanted Pumpkin Garden, a free admission, one-of-a-kind fall festival celebrating the magic of the season, takes place Oct. 19–28, with the incredible artistry of Villafane Studios on display throughout the four-acre Carefree Desert Gardens in Downtown Carefree.

Voted “Best in the Valley” fall event in 2015 and 2016 by Phoenix Magazine, the event invites visitors to experience the many new mischievous pumpkin characters, artfully imagined and frolicking in their enchanted garden home. In addition to the playful pumpkins and holiday vignettes, Villafane and his team will carve 10 3-D pumpkin faces, which are preserved and displayed in tanks that resemble Saguaro cacti. Another popular attraction is the giant pumpkin on display for visitor photos, with Villafane handling the carving chores the second weekend of the event. Villafane’s team of carvers will create new offerings daily throughout the garden.

Highlights include two family-instructional carving nights with Villafane Oct. 25–26, sponsored by Desert Foothills YMCA. Costume contests for children, family/group and adults will be held Saturday, Oct. 27, and a pet costume contest will be held Sunday, Oct. 28, sponsored by Carefree Pet Resort. Other popular activities include the Bashas’ “Adopt a Pumpkin” patch; a pumpkin pie eating competition, with pies provided by Venues Café; a Harvest Market, featuring vendor goods and autumnal treats; a beer garden featuring craft beers provided by Four Peaks Brewery and wine; culinary food trucks; and a new weekend Haunted Happenings area, where for a $5 fee visitors will enjoy a petting zoo, pony rides, a haunted house, corn maze and other family-friendly attractions. Other special events will round out the week.

Based in Arizona, with a workshop and gallery, Villafane is an internationally acclaimed American sculptor who has travelled throughout the globe fashioning exceptional figures and scenes out of pumpkins, sand and snow. Villafane has been called, “the Michelangelo of pumpkin carving,” by Martha Stewart, carved for the president at the White House, and has appeared on numerous national TV programs as well as holding two entries in the Guinness Book of World Records. For information about Ray Villafane and Villafane Studios, visit www.villafanestudios.com.

For more information about the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden event, call 480.488.3686 or visit www.carefreepumpkingarden.com.

Kiwanis Splash Park Is Open For Summer Fun

The Town of Carefree opened the Kiwanis Splash Park for its third season April 1. Located in the Carefree Desert Gardens, the Kiwanis Club of Carefree donated the funds so that local families and their children could have a place to escape the heat while enjoying the beautiful surrounding views of Carefree. In keeping with the Carefree Desert Garden theme, the park has an artfully designed scorpion centered within the splash pad named “KIWANI,” which is an exciting one-of-a-kind feature. When guests least expect it, the scorpion sprays its jets, creating a magical, nature-inspired play environment.

Families are encouraged to make a day of it and visit the boutique shops and restaurants in the Carefree downtown area, then are welcome to cool-off in the Kiwanis Splash Park. In addition to the Splash Park, on the west side of the Garden, families can enjoy a covered playground area featuring another one-of-a-kind Gila monster slide just across from the Carefree “Little Free Library.”

The Splash Park is open 9am–7pm and admission is free. The park will remain open through October 15. For more information, visit www.visitcarefree.com.

Christmas In Carefree

Twenty-Three Days Of Seasonal Celebrations

This year, the Town of Carefree is building upon the decade-long tradition of the Carefree Christmas Festival—and expanding the holiday season, while also furthering community and business involvement.

Preserving the sense of community for locals while also showcasing all the color and beauty of Carefree to new visitors will be the focal point of the expanded Carefree Christmas Festival. The seasonal celebration is set to run from December 1 through 23, and will include highlights of an official tree lighting at the iconic Carefree Sundial, Carefree Snow Village (featuring real snow), an open-air Christmas Market, concerts, a comedy show, arts and crafts, gingerbread build-off, Luminaria Tribute in the Garden, and a new daytime community parade by the Carefree Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce, just to name a few.

“The expanded footprint will allow for even more visitors to enjoy the festivities over an extended period,” said Carefree Mayor Les Peterson. “This will complement typical business hours and also provide a platform for nonprofits from all over the desert foothills area to engage with the community and showcase their cause.”

Evenings in the enchanting, four-acre Carefree Desert Gardens will be adorned with a professional holiday light display. Meanwhile, the daytime hours will be better positioned for the community parade December 9—while also allowing for more community involvement, reduced safety risks and enhanced exposure of Carefree’s pedestrian-friendly business district. There will also be special appearances by Beatles Tribute Band, Marmalade Skies, singer-songwriter Ryan Sims and comedian-actor Jill Kimmel, who is the younger sister of the late-night talk show host, Jimmy Kimmel. Kimmel will pay tribute to veterans and first responders by performing a comedy show just for them. Admission will be an unwrapped toy for the annual toy drive, which supports children of a family selected by the Foothills Food Bank. All toys will be delivered by the Carefree Rural Metro Fire Department. The Cave Creek Unified School District will also include performances from the Cactus Shadows High School Jazz Band as well as various elementary and middle school choirs in addition to the bell ringers and choir from the local Presbyterian church.

It all adds up to an enchanting expansion of the Carefree Christmas Festival—and the sign of even more exceptional things to come.

“We anticipate this event becoming one of the most-attended and revered holiday traditions in the North East Valley,” said Peterson. “We look forward to seeing it grow and evolve, year after year.”

For more information, visit www.christmasincarefree.com.

Click here for a Christmas in Carefree Calendar of Events and Information!

 

Carefree Hosts ‘Art In The Garden’ In April

Photo by Vickilyn Hussey

Education and Community Services (ECS), a department of the Cave Creek Unified School District (CCUSD) will host Art in the Garden Saturday, April 8, 8-11am.

The morning of free family art activities, literary and art contest, art exhibitions and entertainment by local school groups, takes place in partnership with the Kiwanis Club of Carefree at Carefree Desert Gardens.

“We love having the opportunity to brag about all of our ECS programs that are offered to our students and community,” says Gina Durbin, ECS director. “Art in the Garden features the amazing art and literary work of our students and community members. Our community partners are fabulous and so supportive that we want to give them the recognition they deserve at this community event.”

Scully Learning Center, Sonoran Arts League, Desert Awareness Committee, Education & Community Services, Cave Creek Museum, Desert Foothills Library, ECS Kid’s Club and Child’s Play Preschool, ECS Enrichment and Summer Programs, ECS Storytellers and Kiwanis Reads will have activities and informational booths.

Black Mountain Elementary drama, dance and chorus students, Desert Sun Academy Chorus, Sonoran Trails Middle School Chorus, Cactus Shadows High School Jazz Band, Cactus Shadows Improv Dance and Improv Drama groups will perform on stage at the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion, while the Carefree Kiwanis serve up the “World’s Best” pancakes at their Pancake Breakfast ($5 children; $8 adults).

Arts and crafts, face painting, sand painting, storytelling, live performances by outstanding youth music, dance and theater ensembles, works by Literary and Art Contest Winners, an art exhibition by CCUSD staff and alumni, and local summer program informational displays and sign-up tables are just a few of the many attractions.

“You can participate in art activities with your kids, enjoy breakfast, be entertained with music, dance, theater and storytelling, view award winning artwork, buy artwork by students and local artists to benefit the Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center renovation, and learn about summer camps and classes,” according to Elaine Adrian, ECS Art in the Garden Coordinator. “This is a wonderful opportunity for young children and their families.”

Carefree Desert Gardens and Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion are located at 101 Easy Street, Carefree. For more information about ECS Art in the Garden, contact Elaine Adrian at eadrian@ccusd93.org. For additional information, visit www.ecsforall.org or www.ccusd93.org.

Carefree Welcomes Back Sand Sculpting – Adds Stone Exhibit

Rock balancing by Tim Anderson

Rock balancing by Tim Anderson

The Town of Carefree welcomes world renowned artist and sculptor, Ray Villafane, back to create sand art like no other within the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion, Carefree Desert Gardens starting March 4. Villafane (www.villafanestudios.com) for the first time has invited professional stone balancer Tim Anderson (www.keystonebalance.com), a Pennsylvania native, to join him the weekend of March 17-19 to transform the Gardens into an artistic stone playground. Visitors can watch demonstrations, participate and ask questions as the artists defy the laws of physics without the use of any adhesives other than gravity and stones provided by Mother Nature to create unusual artistic formations in the Desert Gardens pools and around the scenic landscape. The Thunderbird Artists (www.thunderbirdartists.com) will also be present in the downtown area for their Carefree Fine Art and Wine event that weekend (see page 48), $3 entrance fee for sand, stone and all the fine art you can consume.

Ray Villafane and Elephant Chessie Trunkston

Ray Villafane and Elephant “Chessie Trunkston”

The first life-size signature sculptor created by Villafane and Sue Beatrice in the Carefree Desert Gardens was completed in May of 2016 titled, “Elephant playing chess with a field mouse,” and consisting of 24 tons of sand sourced from the Salt River. The exhibit garnered world attention by the media who had never seen sand sculpting taken to that level. The silt’s fine texture, married with a tamping process and the right amount of water allows for Villafane to achieve greater detail with his sculpting. When finished, he sprayed a solution of water and glue on the entire sculpture to protect it from the elements allowing it to last upwards of six months for thousands of visitors to enjoy.

Villafane has been on the global scene for 10 years carving sand and says, “I love Carefree and am glad to be back again for a second year within the beautiful Desert Gardens. It’s a playground and inspiration and appreciate the Town allowing me to be a part of it.”

The exhibit will be on display through August. Admission is free and open to the public every day of the week, with the exception of March 17-19, when the Thunderbird artists will join Villafane, Anderson and 150 fine artists at the Carefree Fine Art and Wine event, when there is a $3 entrance fee. Carefree residents are free.

For more information, call 480.488.3686 or visit www.carefree.org.

Carefree Comes Alive With Spirit Of The Season

carefree-christmas-festivalchristmasfestivalLive music, choral and dance performances, real snow and snow slide, pictures with Santa, an electric light parade and fireworks, horse-drawn carriage rides, North Pole train rides, a huge gift and food market, a Nativity scene, pet parade and pet pictures with Santa…yep, the Ninth Annual Carefree Christmas Festival is coming to town!

This month, Carefree’s high Sonoran Desert once again comes alive with sugarplums, elves and Santa as the annual iconic celebration offers merriment, entertainment and free holiday fun for the entire family, including beloved pets.

The scenic destination is the charming Carefree Desert Gardens and Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion, which is converted into a winter wonderland and provides a stunning backdrop for a real-life Christmas village with winding paths showcasing thousands of illuminated exotic plants and cacti.

carefree-christmas-festival2There are plenty of new features to explore this year, including snow sculptures from world-renowned artist and master carver Ray Villafane. And children and adults alike will be delighted by the 40 tons of real snow, plenty of holiday shopping, tasty treats and so much more.

The Ninth Annual Carefree Christmas Festival will take place December 9-11 in Downtown Carefree.

For complete details, see our coverage here!

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