The annual Lighting of Breckenridge ushers in the holiday season on Saturday with a tree-lighting ceremony, racing Santas and reindeer, cocoa and cookies, holiday crafts and music.
Breckenridge added the Race of the Santas last year, and saw more than 140 eager holiday revelers dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus do the five-block dash down Main Street.
The race costs $10 if you have your own costume or $30 with a Santa suit included. Top finishers earn Ullr helmets and prize packages, so organizers recommend "those who can withstand the thin mountain air start at the front of the pack." Proceeds support Adopt an Angel Summit County.
Although a handful of teenagers participated in the Race of the Santas last year, and there were a few runners with strollers and baby carriers, "the Santa suits were just too big to fit the younger kids," said Rachel Zerowin, spokesperson for the Breckenridge Resort Chamber (BRC), which puts on the event.
This year, however, both the kids and Rudolph get a turn, as Breck adds a Reindeer Run to the holiday competitions.
The entry fee is $10 and all children receive antlers and bells, while the five top-finishing boys and girls win prizes. Flying is "absolutely" permitted, Zerowin said.
"This year we wanted to make it easier for families to participate together," said Sandy Metzger, BRC events director. "It's a great opportunity for kids and their parents to be a part of the holiday celebration and give back to the community." The Reindeer Run also raises funds for Adopt an Angel.
The town tree-lighting ceremony, which involves a procession by "the real Santa" down Main Street followed by a lighting of the prominent tree and smaller trees in Blue River Plaza, follows the races.
The Lighting of Breckenridge dates back to the mid 1980s, when Ken Sauerberg (then public works assistant for the town) and former town events coordinator Carol Craig (then BRC events intern) procured a tree and stationed it in the once-empty lot where Town Square Mall is now located.
"The Lighting of Breckenridge traditionally takes place on the first Saturday in December and marks the start of a monthlong lineup of activities including a holiday-themed arts weekend, Dew Tour, Santa visits throughout the month, a window display fundraiser and New Year's Eve parties," Zerowin said. Last year more than 2,000 people participated in the holiday kickoff.
"The combination of all these events allows people to celebrate the holidays any time in December," she said. "For locals, that could mean entertaining family and friends during traditional holidays and celebrating with the lighting earlier in the month. For destination guests, it means they can travel any time in December and still get a holiday experience."