Writer Grace Hill
Photographer Proven Media

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]o the delight of all, the Carefree Christmas Festival will once again create a magical winter holiday in the Arizona desert. Celebrating its ninth year, the festival will weave its way throughout the Carefree Desert Gardens and Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion on December 9-11.

The free event will charm families from all over beginning with the transformation of downtown Carefree into a Christmas village. While real snowflakes won’t drift down from the wintery sky, guests will still be able to experience a white Christmas. Carefree will be chilled with 35 tons of real snow and with it comes all sorts of flurry fun, including snowballs, snow angels, snow slides and an icy chute for sledding. Famed artist Ray Villafane will also be glistening the event with his remarkable snow sculptures.

Of course, every Christmas village needs a Father Christmas! Children will giggle with delight as they pour out their heart’s desires to Santa Claus, and Mrs. Claus will add some of her own holiday mirth during story time. And each day through December 12, children can mail their letters to Santa by dropping them in the North Pole mailbox at Santa’s Grotto. Don’t forget to also have the kids take a ride on the North Pole train that travels throughout the town.

The merriment doesn’t end there. A face painter will create magical holiday designs on the faces of smiling kids, while balloon animals are created by talented balloon artists. Children can then jump away in the inflatable bounce house. Afterward, a nighttime carriage ride will provide some time to relax and enjoy the starry night sky.

Because it is the season to give, the Carefree Christmas Festival provides a holiday shopping experience like no other. Without the hustle and bustle, guests can leisurely peruse more than 80 holiday shopping and food vendors in the Holiday Gift Market presented by Magic Bird Festivals. A one-of-a-kind present or stocking stuffer will be found among the many artisan designs, handcrafted jewelry, boutique apparel and gourmet confections at the market.

A holiday party wouldn’t be complete without music. The sounds of the season will fill the air through the Dickens Carolers, Salvation Army Brass Band, local talented singers and more. There will also be holiday performances by Adage Dance Studios, Desert Foothills Theater and Phoenix Youth Ballet Theatre, to name a few. While enjoying the beautiful music and performances, guests can treat themselves to the delicious food and drinks from the festive food market.

On Saturday, December 10, a Carefree Christmas Festival Electric Light Parade and Holiday Fireworks Extravaganza will light up the town. Guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, blankets and flashlights to watch the parade and fireworks. Sunday, December 11, is Pet Day, where there will be all sorts of furry fun, including a parade of dogs dressed in their holiday best benefiting the Foothills Animal Rescue, pictures with Santa, a gift boutique and pet adoptions from the Foothills Animal Rescue.

Have yourself a merry little Carefree Christmas this year. Whether playing in the snow, admiring the Christmas lights that twinkle around the beautiful desert plants or selecting a gift for a special someone at the holiday market, the Carefree Christmas Festival will quickly become a holiday tradition for many years to come.