Posts Tagged ‘Willoughby’

Prescott, AZ knows how to party!

The Taj Mahal in Prescott, AZ

Living in this town for the last several years reminds me of the late Rod Serling’s 1960s television series, The Twilight Zone…specifically, Season 1, Episode 30 – A Stop at Willoughby, where a businessman stressed from a miserable city life starts to imagine visiting an idyllic small town named Willoughby. Prescott is better than Willoughby; there is scarcely a weekend when something isn’t happening downtown.

Next Stop ... Willoughby (The late actor James Daly in 1960)

Tonight it was Acker Night. Surprisingly, Acker night (named for its benefactor and for the benefit of local musical programs) does not seem to be as widely known outside of Prescott as I imagine that it could be. During one night every year in December, all of the town’s businesses stay open until 8:30 serving holiday treats, and hosting musicians of all genres.

Dinner (Indian)
Mike, Susan and I met at about 6:15pm and began our exploration. We were not methodical. We just started walking east on Gurley St., letting the crowds funnel us toward music that we liked. I like opera, so I was anxious to visit the Music Café.  At one moment, we shared Gurley St. with the Lynx Creek Cloggers:

But Susan won — she was hungry and wanted to try the Indian Buffet at the Taj Mahal Restaurant. When we walked in we were greeted like family. On the way to the buffet, I looked to the right and saw the scene at the top of this blog entry as well as the scene below. The food was great too!

Just Your Typical Night at the Taj Mahal Restaurant

Walking it off
After dinner we were on the move again.  The crowds were thicker than usual this year; I lost my companions in the crowd, which gave me a chance to check out the Music Café again. I was rewarded. Kathleen Cuvelier was performing (I had been waiting a year for this!)

…and rewarded again –because next, Efren Puig performed. I don’t know why I like this guy so much. Something about his eyes when he sings makes me believe in whatever he is selling. It’s a good thing he didn’t ask me for my checkbook. Today I would be calling my son for a loan.

Mike and Susan found me shortly after I arrived at the Music Café and so we headed east again on Gurley to the Hassayampa Inn to see the Song of the Pines Chorus. Last year, Prescott resident Toni Tennille walked in causing a bit of a stir here at about this time. I love this group and this setting could not be more perfect for them.

In my younger years, I would have seen a beautiful image ready to be captured and would be too embarrassed to do anything about it. This, for example happened in Krakow, Poland over a decade ago and I promised myself it would never happen again. So, I stepped in front of the crowd and approached the director to get a shot (a necessity, as I was sporting a 17-40L wide-angle lens). For a moment, there was trepidation in the looks of some of the chorus (maybe it was the Russian hunter’s hat). Then I raised my camera, about three feet from Suzy Lobaugh, the director and all previous sins seemed forgiven. I was able to get this great portrait as she warmed immediately to the camera.

Suzy Lobaugh, Director, Song of the Pines

Now, Mike had wanted to see the show at the newly remodeled Prescott Elks Theater, since we missed it last year. As we approached the theater, we could see that we had just missed the 8pm show, featuring PK Jugg’s Uptown Shenagan Band, so we decided to walk around the square for 30 minutes or so and come back to see if we could catch the last show for this year at 8:30.

Killing Time on the Square
On our walk down Cortez Street, we passed many shops, each with a different musical group or entertainer. There was an empty space left vacant by a former business — but we heard the sounds of silver flutes. And there they were, the “Junior Fluties” performing a canon:

The "Junior Fluties"

We made our way across the courthouse square; Susan wanted to see if a friend from work was still performing.  The Yavapai County Courthouse sits in the middle of the town square.  The informed reader will recognize this building from many movies, including Easy Rider and Billy Jack.

The Yavapai County Courthouse

We found Joe Bethancourt at the Kikkapoo Express on Whiskey Row.

We continued looking for Joseph Leal. I have met Susan’s friend and Native American Flute Player, Joseph Leal before. The talented man with several very credible Native American flute music albums was just packing up after three hours on the job. I made this image as we were running out the door to get back across the square to the Elks Theater.

Joseph Leal, "Flute Dancer"

Joseph was playing at The Artful Eye Jewelry Design Center. It was good to see him again.

“Bill! Take our picture on the square!” Susan burst. Since we were in a hurry with about 5 minutes to showtime, I turned the camera dial to the green “P” (P for Professional). Mike was rightly dissatisfied with the shot, which left all of the Christmas lights behind him in a black abyss. Ok, so I turned the camera dial to “M” (M for Macho), dialed in 1/25 sec at F4.5, ISO 800, pointed the flash at the stars and let it rip (so to speak). The loving couple was slightly more pleased:

Mike and Susan

Then I saw Mike’s eyes dart in a different direction and I couldn’t help following him. “Heyyyyyyy, can you take our picture?” one of the girls asked. There they were, three Acker Night fans who had come down from Flagstaff for the festivities. I told one of the girls, “Sure, but just before I take the picture, reach over and grab your friend to make [what photographers call] “happy hands.” She new what that meant. After attempting “happy hands,” every image will turn out great — guaranteed:

Heyyyyyyy! "We're from Flagstaff!"

Leaving all hands happy, we walked right up the street and into the line filing into the theater. We overheard one of the ushers mention that the seats were particularly good upstairs. At the top of the stairs, Mike peeked behind a curtain and motioned for me to follow. Box seats!

“Pump-Pump-Pump-Pump It Up!”
The show as fun, with a host of song parodies. The Band ‘rapped’ up the set with an audience participation number. Take a look for yourself to see how Acker Night was wrapped until next year.  See you then!

Want to know more?
The Twilight Zone, Season 1, Episode 30, “A Stop at Willoughby”

The late actor, James Daly


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