WILL THERE BE LIGHTS?
“It’s all hands on deck and we’re going to do everything we can to keep it going!”
~Raphael Isaac, Festival of Lights Board President
We are doing everything we can right now to keep the lights on. We’re planning on putting on the exact same display as last year with the clusters and the drippy lights because we don’t want the lights to be any less than what they were last year. We’re really hoping to show some continuity given everything that we’re living through right now.
Last year, we learned our electrical wiring needed to be upgraded to continue our Million White Lights along Chandler Boulevard so, since that time, our Festival of Lights board has been working consistently with the City of Phoenix trying to get all the permits necessary to complete the required repairs in the medians. We were granted permission to be out on the islands and do the work when we received our permit on August 5th.
We are hopeful the engineers will soon begin the repair work that will let us get the lights on this year. Typically, our light people start hanging the lights at the end of September but this year it might be a little bit more rushed as we may begin a little bit later because of the repair that must be done. There are some instances where we have to bore under Chandler Boulevard, redo the wiring, and connect into pedestals. There’s quite a bit of work before we can begin stringing lights.
Our main goal is to ensure our Million White Lights shine bright, but it’s important we talk about our fundraising (and fun!) events that support the effort financially, as well.
WHAT ABOUT THE KICKOFF PARTY?
We canceled our Beer and Wine Tasting Event planned for April when the pandemic hit and at that time, we were hopeful we could still produce our annual Kick-Off Party always held the Saturday after Thanksgiving but this year, Ahwatukee’s largest family-friendly event will not take place.
We have been in contact with the police department, the parks and the city, and nobody could guarantee the city would grant us permission to do the party, even if we had filled out the paperwork that we usually begin in July.
When our board met about the challenges, it went beyond logistics and became a question of social responsibility. How could we maintain social distance with 10,000 people at a city park when people are coming and going from all different angles and kids are playing on bouncy houses?
Although the operator said his crew members are wiping down all the bouncy houses every half hour or so, there was still no way to take people’s temperature if we needed to and what about the kids that want to sit on Santa’s lap? We didn’t know how to manage that. Also, the Tavern is obviously wall-to-wall people and maintaining social distance in a park with that many people and all the vendors, it just didn’t seem prudent. Further, there’s the liability issue. Even if we did pull it off, how many people would feel safe enough to show up?
SO WITHOUT FUNDRAISERS, HOW WILL WE PAY FOR IT?
Our past President Janyce Hazlett and her husband Bill Hazlett were prudent with the association’s finances and we do have a rainy day fund. We also received contributions from the Foothills Community Association and the Club West Homeowners’ Association again this year. We’re very grateful to the HOAs for jumping in and helping us, and when you add that support to our rainy day fund, we are hopeful we have the funds to turn on the Million White Lights. If we didn’t have to do any renovations, we would absolutely be able to put the lights on and we’ll know, in the next month or so, how much the repairs actually cost the organization.
To solidify our financial position, we are planning to move ahead with fundraising efforts that include an online auction with the items donated over the past year. We are currently requesting sponsorship from area businesses, and we are asking the community for individual donations to help us keep the lights on.
We have adapted our popular “wine pull” from the annual Beer and Wine Tasting Event to an online game we will offer in November along with the online auction, featuring a variety of wines so look for more information on that soon. We still need to raise money because, even if we put the lights on this year and everything goes well, it will leave us with very little money to plan for events and lights in 2021.
I am as optimistic as I can be while also being a realist and hoping there are no more surprises. As a board, we will keep moving forward and we think we’ll be okay this year. If the community can step up and donate to our fund, whether it be $10, $25 or a $10 or more, it will help us to keep the lights on. Also something to remember, we are a non profit organization, so all of your donations are tax deductible!
We’re revamping our website homepage to be more informational and let you know our plans for getting the lights on and keeping them on. We want you to know the various ways you can support the effort. Here are the current sponsorship opportunities . Our donate button will be live on September 4 and we’re planning to recognize anyone who donates over a hundred dollars on the website and in Ahwatukee Foothills News at the end of the season. Donors giving $200 or more will be invited to pick up a yard sign from sponsor PostNet that says they helped support and keep the lights on.
To recognize our sponsors, we’re planning an extensive social media blitz and campaign to let people know how to help. We’re also trying to find ways to physically showcase our sponsors with the light display this year to make it worthwhile for them to lend their support so we are also creating large ornament signage to be hung on the tree to showcase sponsor logos.
This has been a bit of a learning curve for all of us here. Obviously, we’re all volunteers and we all have businesses to run in these weird times, too. But when it comes to the Festival of Lights, our goal is to have the lights on. We are going to do everything that we can in our power to make that happen.
As long as we don’t get tripped up with anything else coming at us, we think we’ll be okay. There’s really no timeframe to unplug it. If we don’t get the lights turned on by Thanksgiving, then maybe we get them turned on by the first week of December. We’re just going to keep pushing until we get to the finish line, whatever date that is. That’s our core mission here.