In 1952 the local 4-H Club in Cave Creek, under the leadership of Jean Hackler, put together a holiday pageant entitled Oh Holy Night that included a live re-enactment of the Christmas story and showcased some of their animals. For the next 50 years, community members joined together to produce this homespun show that became an area tradition.

The original production took place nestled among the rocks at the base of Black Mountain in an area known as Tse Bonita. Audience members sat on blankets on the ground while fires lit in the rocks on the mountainside lit the angels and provided added “starlight” to the production. The beautiful desert skies brought a sense of awe to the event.

After 50 years, the pageant’s supporting organization disbanded in 2002. Records and memorabilia were handed over to the Cave Creek Museum. In 2003, there was no event at Spur Cross or anywhere and it looked like the pageant was over. The Luminaria Run was created to at least keep the luminaria trail aspect of the event alive.

Cave Creek resident Toby Payne had volunteered since 1992, enhancing the event with lighting and sound. In 2004, he asked the Foothills Community Foundation to support the resurrection of the pageant. They agreed and the pageant was presented in the desert preserve at Desert Arroyo Middle School for two years.

As the Luminaria Run was created to support the Cave Creek tradition, luminaria crews from the Run also helped light the road to Desert Arroyo.

From the moment of the pageant’s return, organizers had been working with the town of Cave Creek to find a desert location more similar to that of Tse Bonita. Spur Cross Ranch seemed the perfect solution, but it was not quite ready until 2006.

The 2006 Desert Foothills Christmas Pageant marked the first year the pageant was held in the beautiful new Spur Cross location. Under the stars of the desert sky, the tradition continued.

2007 an unusual rain/snow storm washed the pageant grounds out and damaged the set, forcing cancellation. Volunteers, resilient as ever, constructed a rock and mortar “Inn” that will serve for many years to come.

© 2021 Foothills Christmas Pageant,  For Questions Contact Toby Payne 480-544-2290, Photo credit: Chris Runoff

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