Salida tradition attracts 1000s

Describing the emotion surrounding one of Salida’s longest-standing traditions, the lighting of Christmas Mountain USA, Parade of Lights and Holiday Park, begs the question, “How do you put the warm, fuzzy feelings into words?”

Salida Business Alliance President Vickie Sue Vigil said she “just loves” the entire night of festivities. She’s been involved in the planning of these traditions “forever” but had a hard time putting it into words. “Everyone’s nice that night. It’s heartwarming.”

The lighting of Christmas Mountain has been “celebrated in one way or another” since 1987, and SBA has been involved in organizing the events at least that long. In the past 30 years, the tradition has grown, making Salida “a destination for the Thanksgiving holiday,” Vigil said.

Winning Best Winter Event in The Mountain Mail’s Best Of Salida contest for more than six years, the Parade of Lights has been a tradition since 2004. Vigil said before 2004 it was a “stationary parade,” as floats were parked on the street.

The parade theme this year is Christmas Through the Ages. “It’s broad and open to interpretation. You can wear Victorian attire, ‘Roaring ’20s,’ ’60s, 2000s and beyond. It’s whatever Christmas means to you,” she said.

The Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center, 3 Eagles Communication, The Mountain Mail and Smokey Bear are floats Vigil says she can always count on. And the Salida Fire Department, of course, because its job is to carry Santa down F Street to light North America’s largest Christmas Tree of lights on Tenderfoot Mtn.

“We’re proud to have the high school band march in the parade for the last several years. It’s a wonderful addition.” Dan Sack, aka Parade Man, is the one who “gets the parade down the street.”

After the lighting of Christmas Mountain, Holiday Park will officially open in Riverside Park. Holiday Park has been a tradition since 1998. In the park, people can adopt and decorate trees as a memorial or to promote a nonprofit or other business. About 70 of the 86 trees had been adopted as of Nov. 16. “Holiday Park is a wonderful show of camaraderie. There are businesses, memorials and nonprofits. We have a wonderful community and it all ties in that night,” said Vigil.

Downtown shops will be open late for shoppers to seek warmth, and the SteamPlant Event Center will have a party with The Drunken Hearts and hot chocolate for all ages as well as specialty hot drinks for adults starting at 7 p.m.

After Santa lights Christmas Mountain, he will be in his little house by the parking lot at F and Second streets.

Vigil recalled one Christmas parade night about seven years ago when it started snowing at 5 p.m. “It was snowing so hard my husband had snow crystals on his eyelashes. I was worried no one would come, but just before 6 p.m. people started to show up. Once the parade ended, they went straight into the shops.”

Vigil said the weather for the parade is either cold and dry or cold and snowing, but watching the parade when the snow is falling is “magical.”