Glendale City Council will decide by mid-October whether to cancel its Glendale Glitters tree-lighting event on Thanksgiving weekend because of concerns over spreading the coronavirus.
City officials say they primarily are following guideline put in place by Gov. Doug Ducey when considering how to conduct planned city festivals this fall and winter.
City Council said it plans to make a decision on the tree-lighting event by its first workshop in October, which is schedule for 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13.
Alternatives to the regular tree-lighting event weekend, which includes a show before the tree-lighting, food and drink vendors, children’s activities and a field of artificial snow, could include streaming the tree-lighting for residents to view live online.
Regardless of any potential changes to in-person events, Glendale still plans to light up its downtown with its annual Christmas display that stretches from late November to early January.
If the tree-lighting event or other planned festivals between November and April must be canceled or downsized, city officials will consider putting saved event funding toward new events in parts of the city other than downtown, namely Arrowhead Towne Center or Westgate Entertainment District.
Mayor Jerry P. Weiers said another downtown Christmas event, Glendale’s Hometown Christmas Parade, will face a decision in late September or early October on whether to cancel the annual event. Parade organizers are a nonprofit and the event is funded by sponsors, which include the city of Glendale.
Glendale staff has ideas in mind for how to conduct its normal event season with social distancing and increased sanitation, such as allowing fewer vendors in Murphy Park, installing hand-washing and sanitizing stations near restrooms, eliminating children’s rides and eliminating the beer garden to avoid the need for a fenced-in area for event-goers to drink, enabling the crowd to spread out more.
Yucca District Councilwoman Joyce Clark, in last week’s Council workshop, was skeptical if it would be possible to put on these events at all.
“I hate to sound like ‘The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,’ but I’m very pessimistic about our ability to encourage large groups to gather probably until January of next year. I just see it coming. And I’m upset, but I just think that’s the way it’s going to be,” she said.
The tree-lighting ceremony, called the Glendale Glitters Spectacular Weekend, is scheduled for Friday-Saturday, Nov. 27-28 to kick off the downtown special event season, which stretches into April 2021. For now, staff plans to conduct this and other events while socially distanced with the caveat that City Council could decide in its Oct. 13 workshop to either cancel the event or switch on the downtown Christmas lights without a crowd gathered.
If any events this fall or winter are called off or scaled down, staff’s idea was to use the money saved for a new event during the spring. Glendale planned to launch its new event Live! @ Murphy Park this past April, which would have featured free music in the city’s downtown amphitheater Thursdays through Sunday during the month. The city hopes to extend it to a two-month event in both March and April during 2021, and staff thought any unused event funding could pay for lights in the trees for that event.
City Manager Kevin Phelps said it could be a test run to see if the city wanted to put up a permanent light display downtown.
“And then that might give us a platform to look for down the road, does it make sense perhaps to have a permanent lighting in downtown. It gives us an opportunity to at least see what it looks (like) visually and get response back from the people attending the events,” he said.
Cholla District Councilwoman Lauren Tolmachoff had a different idea for potential event savings. City Council discussed last year about possibly spreading more city-sponsored events to other areas of town, such Arrowhead Towne Center in the north or Westgate to the west, but did not allocate funding for such events into this fiscal year’s budget. Such events would be planned for the spring or later in hopes that COVID-19 infection rates have dropped and there will be fewer crowd restrictions. Mr. Phelps said staff would explore this option.
Ms. Tolmachoff focused specifically on Arrowhead Towne Center, which is in the Sahuaro District, next door to hers.
“I feel like it’s important, especially for Arrowhead Towne Center. I mean, that is a huge revenue generator, and we all understand the complexities and the problems retail, especially large brick-and-mortar, has. And I feel like we shouldn’t abandon the idea of trying to draw people to Arrowhead Towne Center,” Ms. Tolmachoff said, noting she wasn’t suggesting taking any funding away from downtown events to do so, only if there was money saved this year or adding new money to the event budget next year.
Ocotillo District Councilman Jamie Aldama, who represents downtown, said he thought it was a great idea because it’s a different part of town — at least a 20-minute drive from downtown — and doesn’t have any city sponsored events in the area.
Ms. Tolmachoff said protecting the mall’s status as one of the city’s biggest sales tax generators will help all of Glendale.
“I mean, malls are struggling all over this country. If we can generate more foot traffic there, it’s in the best interest of the entire city to try and do that,” she said.
Mr. Phelps noted the city is primarily following guidelines on public gatherings from the governor’s, which is listening to the Arizona Department of Health Services and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.