Every December, downtown Prescott, Arizona becomes a magical place. Known as the “Christmas City,” festivities start the first weekend with the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the Prescott Courthouse Square. During the second weekend in December, something remarkable happens. It’s called the J.S. Acker Musical Showcase (aka Acker Night), and it is a blast! Over a hundred downtown businesses participate, opening their doors to over 120 musical acts.
On December 12, 2015, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., hundreds of people will wander through the historic Prescott streets, stopping at a shop to listen for a while, then moving on to the next store. Visitors are welcomed with cookies, hot chocolate, and apple cider to help them brave the cold night air–a night filled with music and excitement.
You’re probably asking yourself, “What is an Acker?” It’s more like “who?”
J.S. Acker ran a general store in Prescott in the early 1900’s. He carried a variety of items needed for life in rural Arizona. He also carried school and music supplies for the local children. He left the Prescott area for a while, but he eventually returned in the 1930’s. He became involved in real estate and acquired several parcels of land. Upon his death in 1955, J.S. Acker willed the land to the City of Prescott to be used for parks and music programs for children. Hence, the Acker Scholarship was formed, providing funds for budding musicians in the Prescott area.
In 1988, La Von Anderson, a strong supporter of childrens music, came up with the idea of combining the Christmas atmosphere of downtown Prescott with music as a way of raising awareness and funds for the Acker Scholarship. Acker Night was born and has become an event a growing number of people from around the nation look forward to attending.
Susan Smart, owner of Keystone Antiques, 127 N. Cortez Street, and Gypsy Street Antiques (just four doors down), has been involved in Acker Night since its inception. She recalls the first year when there were only about a dozen or so shops hosting musical acts and marvels at the event’s expansion. Over the years, Susan has hosted bell ringers, jazz bands, Sweet Adalines, opera singers and guitarists:
“I think it’s a nice night for people who maybe don’t get downtown, or the stores are closed when they get off of work. They don’t have a chance to really see what’s downtown. It’s a nice way to familiarize themselves with the shops and all the different musical venues they get to see. It’s kind of a nice way to enjoy the music and shop a little bit!” Susan says. “Whether…we sell a lot of stuff or not, we do it to give back to the community. A lot of times, people see the shop for the first time and we hear, “wow, I didn’t even know this place was here!” “
For the third year in a row, Susan is hosting Karmann and Kompany (TRC’ music editor, Karmann Powell’s band) at her Keystone Antiques shop. She appreciates that Karmann and Kompany plays Christmas songs, as well as a variety of genres and originals, so there’s something for everyone. Susan thinks she knows the key to Acker Night’s success:
“Acker really feels like a…hometown. Everyone gets together and visits. A lot of people come because they want that feeling. It’s Christmas, it’s a small town and I think they enjoy that because everything is so commercial.”
A lot of work goes into coordinating an event as large as Acker Night. That work is done by several volunteers who comprise the Acker Committee:
“Scott (Currey) & I have been on the Acker Musical Showcase Committee for quite a few years,” said Jill Currey. ” This small Committee puts on a huge event that, thanks to our generous businesses, performers and audiences, raises enough money each year that we can help schools, as well as individual children continue to study and enjoy music. Lately, we have taken more of a leadership role and it is definitely time-consuming! We are happy to choose this time and place to “give back” to our wonderful adopted hometown of Prescott!”
Road One South, a blues band from Chino Valley, AZ will be playing in the Elks Theater this year. They are giving current and past Acker Scholarship recipients a chance to take the stage.
For more information visit the Acker Showcase web site. A complete list of performers and host locations will be available on the web site as Acker Night draws near. An amazing amount of talent converges on Prescott on Acker Night, sharing their love of music and their passion for helping the next generation of music makers. It really IS for the children!