They came in droves – young lovers holding hands, wide-eyed kids in strollers, seniors supported on either side by a cane and an elbow, even someone on a Segway silently moving with the crowd.
A counter at the end of the Valley of Lights tallied up 2,553 participants, making the first Stroll successful beyond expectations, said Marnie Uhl, CEO of the Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the event.
The one-mile-long Valley of Lights on the south side of town was closed to vehicle traffic from 6 to 9 p.m. Two school buses provided transportation from Second Street parking lots down to the first tunnel, about a quarter mile away. The buses also picked up people at the finish of the Stroll to take them the third of a mile back down Second Street to their cars.
Two buses could not keep up with the number of participants, Uhl said. Nor could the two golf carts that helped those with strollers and small children, and the ADA community.
“We had a parking and bus system arranged; but due to the huge number of people, it was not enough. So we will review that,” she said the day after the event.
Most of the arrivals walked downhill to the Fain Park parking lot and Snowflake Tunnel. Many of those leaving did not wait the 10-to-15 minutes for a bus, but instead either walked back on Second Street or turned around and enjoyed walking the Valley of Lights a second time.
Second Street is not well lit and has no sidewalks, which created some unsafe pedestrian issues. Uhl said the Chamber will look at better lighting and pedestrian/bus coordination for next year’s event.
It was a beautiful, if chilly (54 degrees), evening, and the two refreshment stands along the way were welcomed by children and adults alike.
Sam’s Club cooked up marshmallows and handed out s’mores and hot chocolate. Costco and Stepping Stones set up a stand off the road where they gave out hot chocolate and hot cider.
Cameras and cell phones were in hand all along the route with people snapping photos of the displays. Parents, especially, appreciated Santa Claus who patiently posed with delighted children.
Unfortunately, the carolers had to cancel, Uhl said. Nevertheless, donations were nearly triple what an average Tuesday brings in with vehicular traffic.
Alan and Kathy Krause said as they were passing by the 12 Days of Christmas display, the song serendipitously played on the music they carried with them.
The Prescott Valley residents, returning to the start of the Stroll, said they did not want to wait for a bus at the end of the route, nor walk the road back to their car. They decided to enjoy the Valley of Lights twice by traversing it again.
“We don’t need a bus. That’s for old people,” the couple, ages 78 and one month shy of 78, said with a laugh.
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