Clifton Festival of Lights resumes, 2022 event held despite steady rain

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Floats were emptied as the 26th Annual Clifton Festival of Lights Parade concluded at the American Legion building. The Morenci Water and Electric float received the Best of Parade award.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

CLIFTON – “A little water is not gonna stop us,” retired Town of Clifton employee Anthony Ortega said. And, it did rain on the parade.

The 2022 Clifton Festival of Lights, as well as the parade, were held, despite steady rain throughout the day. Nearby parking lots overflowed with vehicles.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: A train was available for riding in Chase Creek, but without protective coverings, it sat idle most of the day.

Visitors traversed Chase Creek waters running steadily out of its walled banks in the streets, to attend the event. Anticipated crowds may not have been fully realized, but residents and non-residents alike still attended.

Food vendors, with a range of varied tastes, sold hamburgers, hot dogs, carne asada, menudo, posole, pork tamales, cookies, fudge, cupcakes, churros, peanut brittle, coffee, and hot chocolate. Nearly all of the booths were vacated by 8 p.m.

A cakewalk had multiple winners as well.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: A chance to win a cake and or other prizes was held during a Cake Walk several times during the day. Clifton Mayor Luis Montoya presented the prizes.

The top three of 10 essay contest winners, writing on the local event, selected by the festival committee, were recognized and crowned Mr. and Miss Merry Christmas, and princess in the flesh of Morenci seniors Elijah Leyba, Isabelle Shock, and Gianna Chavez, respectively. Scholarships will be awarded during the end-of-school May gathering. A scheduled reading of the essays was not held.

In place and readied but not used was a musical performance stage, fitted with covered speakers. A live band did not materialize and no one stepped up to play instruments or sing, and yes several performers were rained out. Attendees were not entertained by scheduled performers Kamille Bernal, Danny Twigg, Theresa, and Bella Campbell, the Morenci Pride Band drum line, or Sra Skinner. Instead, recorded music was played throughout the day to help set the wanted mood, the Christmas Spirit.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci essay contestant winners, from left, Isabelle Shock, Elijah Leyba, and Gianna Chavez were crowned Miss Merry Christmas, Mr. Merry Christmas, and Princess, respectively. The trio will receive a scholarship during an end-of-school gathering in May.

A much-anticipated parade capped the day, with at least 17 entrants participating, according to one onlooker. Another onlooker, seated underneath a covering acting as a shield from the falling rain, said both hands to count the number of vehicles going by weren’t needed. A law enforcement officer said he didn’t really know the count, as his focus was on making sure no one strayed onto the path of moving vehicles.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Area resident and event participant Keegan Smerglia crossed the highway, wearing warm clothing and armed with an umbrella, as numerous attendees also were.

However, a Town of Clifton employee provided the actual count, 14 entrants including a color guard. Represented were the American Legion Post #28 Color Guard, Joyann P. Hernandez, Metcalf Elementary School, Morenci Fire Association, Morenci Water and Electric, Town of Clifton Grand Marshal Float featuring lifetime resident Dorothy Alvarez, Clifton Fire Department, Greenlee County Ambulance / Gila Health Resources, American Legion Auxillary Unit Post #28, 4H Mighty Mountain Club, Isabella Shock, Gianna Chavez, Christina Chavez, Eric Chavez, and Elijah Leyba, and LDS Church.

Eight awards were earned for Best Use of Music: Morenci Pride Band, Best Use of Lights: Miss Merry Christmas Isabelle Shock, Best Group Participation: LDS Church, Best Use of Theme: American Legion, Most Unique: Joyann Hernandez, Judges Choice: Metcalf Elementary, and Best of Parade: Morenci Water and Electric. The Facebook Favorite voted on through 11:50 a.m. Monday, was Isabelle Shock.

The event helped partakers with a return to normalcy, having not been held since the ongoing global health crisis reared its head in early 2020. However, health officials recently warned of another wave hitting eight counties in the state, including Greenlee.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Several food vendors were available to provide various meals or snacks throughout the day. Traditionally, tarps were used to have a shaded area, but in 2022, the purpose was to have a dry place to stand under.

The 26th Annual Christmas Festival of Lights tabbed “Home Town Holidays are here again,” concluded as it had all day, amidst a steady rain.