BRECKENRIDGE - Anticipation was almost tangible in the air, as hundreds of people gathered at the base of a dark evergreen tree in Breckenridge's town square, the Blue River Plaza Saturday evening. Then a cheer went up as Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived to welcome the crowd. "Merry Christmas," the bearded man boomed. "How much you've all grown this year."Kris Kringle kept his remarks short, only reminding revelers to toe the line and keep their rooms clean for another 23 days, before he got down to business. Flipping a switch, Santa Claus illuminated Breckenridge's two-story tree and lit up the plaza with twinkling holiday lights. "It made me really happy," said Ellie Stanzel, a little girl from Boulder of the moment the lights went on. The Lighting of Breckenridge and other tree-lighting ceremonies have become a long-standing tradition in Summit County, announcing the triumphant return of the Christmas season with glowing trees and holiday festivities. Both Breckenridge and Keystone Resort held lighting ceremonies Saturday night, with caroling, cookies, hot drinks and visits from Santa. Breckenridge also marked the occasion with its annual Race of the Santas, with a pack of runners 200 strong all dressed in red and hurtling down Main Street to raise money for Adopt an Angel Summit County prior to the lighting. With a new Reindeer Run for kids added this year, a total of 300 people turned out for the fundraiser, doubling last year's participation. "The energy was fantastic," Silverthorne community service officer David Siderfin said, still dressed in his Santa suit. "The crowd was bigger than last year and it was just a great day." The fastest Santas won Ullr helmets, Nike jackets and Bud Light prizes. The Reindeer winners were awarded gift certificates to a local toy store. After the lighting, Santa met with kids at the Barney Ford museum, one of Breckenridge's many historic houses, to go over Christmas lists. Eight-year-old Ronny Summerlin, of Evergreen, who attended the Breckenridge lighting but had not yet talked to Santa, said he planned to ask for a powered scooter and some action figures. He said his favorite thing about Christmas is "that you get to spend time with your family," which he was doing at the lighting ceremony Saturday.Frisco will also hold a Santa race on Saturday. The Lighting of Dillon, at La Riva Mall, will be the same day from 5:30-8 p.m. with cookies, hot cider, Christmas carolling performances by the Lord of the Mountains Sanctuary Choir and another opportunity to see Santa Claus.
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