Free Light Rail Rides for 500 People Saturday at Downtown Phoenix Holiday Event

In a few months there'll be gum on the slightly dingy seats, graffitti on the windows, and sticky, unidentifiable stuff on the floors.

But tomorrow, you and a few hundred other enthusiastic rail riders can breathe in that new-train smell as some of the very first passengers on the Phoenix light rail.

Starting at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Cesar Chavez Plaza in Phoenix, up to 500 riders will be allowed to board the train at no charge for short rides.

It's all part of the city of Phoenix's annual Christmas tree and menorah lighting ceremony with Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, the Phoenix Suns Gorilla, and Santa Claus. (No, it's not Hannukah yet -- your menorah, if you've got one, shouldn't be lit until sundown on December 21). The show starts at 6:30 p.m., though city officials suggest getting there by 5:30 p.m.

Christmas carolers, homemade snow and a rock-climbing wall round out the festivities.

But besides Santa, the real star of the event will be the city's expensive new choo-choos, which open to the public on December 27.

It's like a $1.5-billion Christmas present to the public. -- Ray Stern

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