The forecast for Friday’s Merry Main Street calls for some 40,000 people strolling up and down a stretch of Mesa’s Main Street, visiting vendors, hearing music and admiring the last-minute revival of the downtown light display.
But there will be no snow. Budget woes that also had threatened the holiday lights, forced the city to do without the tons of man-made powder.
City Councilman Mike Whalen, whose last-minute fund-raising netted $42,000 for lights to decorate the Main Street median, said he won’t miss the snow which has been a part of the event since it began five years ago because some children would lob snowballs at passers-by not interested in a fight.
"I think it was primarily the cost, but there were some other problems that went along with it," he said. He didn’t know how much it cost the city to truck in 50 tons of snow.
There will be plenty else for people to do. From 5 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, Main will be shut down between Country Club Drive and Centennial Way to make way for five stages with entertainment by everyone from Santa Claus to the Pan-Americana Salsa and Meringue Orchestra, along with dozens of vendors, children’s activity booths and rides, strolling carolers and musicians.
Anyone who dons clothing with Christmas lights, glow sticks, fluorescent paint or some other glow-in-the-dark substance can enter the firstever lighted costume contest. Judging will begin at 8:45 p.m. on the stage at Main and Macdonald.
Also new is a beer garden which will be set up by the Main Street Sports Grill at the west end of the street. A fireworks display will be launched from the eastern end around 9:15 p.m.
The 50 entries in the city’s gingerbread house contest will be judged just before the event begins in the lobby at Mesa City Plaza, 20 E. Main St., and will be on display through the evening.
Barbara Bowden of Mesa and her granddaughter, Jamie, 5, went to their first Merry Main Street last year and plan to go again Friday.
Bowden, who took Jamie downtown for a day-after-Thanksgiving walk, said last year’s event was great because it was "geared toward the kids," but she also appreciated what was there for her to do. "I liked that the shops stayed open for it, so you could go inside and take a break," she said.
And there will be lights, but not as many. Facing more than $30 million in shortfalls, the City Council in spring cut the $150,000 which would be needed to string half a million lights through the trees on both sides of Main downtown along with the median, as had been done the last few years.
Whalen, who is running for re-election in March, said $2,000 of the money he raised from local businesses and residents will be left over after the lights are up and will be socked away for what he hopes will be a bigger display next winter.
"Hopefully people will contribute again, because the budget doesn’t look any better for next year," Whalen said.