They no longer estimate how many lights actually glow in the massive display, but come Friday, tens of thousands of colored lights will begin to blaze in the night at the Mesa Arizona Temple Gardens of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
For the 28th season, the trees, shrubs, walls and other landscape will be trimmed in dazzling Christmas lights nightly in what has been recognized as one of the largest and most significant holiday displays in the Southwest. This year, it has gotten a new promotional name, “Celebrate the Life of Christ in Lights and Music.”
The opening ceremony and official lighting will be 7 p.m. Friday outside the Visitors Center at 525 E. Main St. Chosen to throw the switch will be Glade and Carol Soelberg of Mesa, who were selected the 2007 National Parents of the Year.
The lights will be ablaze 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily through Dec. 31. Free half-hour concerts will be at 7 p.m. daily through Dec. 31. Performing will be professional groups, family choruses, school choirs and private ensembles. Included are the Wade Family Puppeteers, Red Mountain Brass, Grace United Methodist Church Chancel Choir, and Desert Voices Chorale. The concert schedule is listed at www.christmastemplelights.com.
Visitors may also go inside to see displays of large and small nativity sets from around the world. The nativities come from the private collections of the event’s co-founders, Sally Johnson and Debbie Horne, both of Mesa, and several others. The sets are different from than those shown in previous years. One set, for example, comes from Provence in southern France. It includes Santons, or clay figures depicting the traditional trades and costumes of the 19th century. It will be displayed in a large village of more than 30 characters, each about 12 inches high. Other sets come from the Philippines, Germany, Peru, Africa and Mexico — one made of porcelain and another from bicycle parts.
Free tours of the Visitors Center are offered 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, while a 10-minute film about the birth of Christ will be shown repeatedly. For more information, call the center, (480) 964-7164.