Year to end in blaze of creativity

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

January through November Herman Lopez’ tractor is, well, a tractor. But come December, specifically for the Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce annual Parade of Lights, this Tucumcari man’s tractor is transformed into Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer – complete with a red blinking nose.
It’s been such a hit, in fact, Lopez has nabbed first place honors for two of the three years the parade has been around, said parade Chairman Debbie Lafferty.

“He keeps adding to it,” Lafferty said of Lopez’ float. “He started with the reindeer,” she said. “The next year he added the sleigh. I can’t wait to see what he does this year.”

Lafferty goes on to explain Lopez has won in the general
Christmas category – the two other judging categories include religious and recreational. Everyone is invited to participate in the December 10 event, Lafferty said, the only requirements are an entry form, available at the chamber office, and a float that is fully lit.

“It takes me two days just to put on the lights,” Lopez said of the strings and strings he strings that could easily number 10,000. But it surely didn’t start out that way, he said.
Frankly, when Lopez was making his parade debut, he said he almost turned around and went home.

“The first year the tractor broke down,” he said. At the last minute, he said about 10 people were swapping lights onto a working tractor he used as a replacement.

“I was about to give up but they wouldn’t let me,” Lopez said, adding the lights were thrown on the float in a haphazard fashion. “It had lumps everywhere,” he said.

Since then Lopez said he’s had better luck with the tractor – and learning what works and what doesn’t. For instance, when he figured out he wanted to add a sleigh, he said it took him more than two weeks to build it.

Rather than dismember it every year, Lopez said he now keeps it stored in his barn.

Lopez, who said he does have an added surprise in store this year, is not the only one with a wondrous float in this annual show, Lafferty said. Some other eye catchers include the Mesalands Community College dinosaur display and a host of floats put together by area churches, Lafferty said.

For a parade that started with only a handful of floats, Lafferty said last year’s list topped out at 17 and this year they are shooting for 20.

“This is not a fund-raiser,” Lafferty said. “We don’t do it for money. The kids look forward to it; you’ll see the people line up outside to watch.”

In addition to the parade, Lafferty said the kids also get a kick out of Santa, who will be on hand in Kvols Park at 4 p.m.

“We don’t have a Sears or whatever area business usually has a Santa,” Lafferty said, “so we provide one ourselves.”

The Chamber of Commerce also provides a Christmas Lighting Contest for the Best Residence Lights and Best Business Lights. Entries are due by Dec. 9 and judging will be on Dec. 12, with entry forms available at the chamber office.

What: Parade of Lights
When: 6 p.m. on Dec. 10; setup at 5:30 p.m.
Who: Anyone who wants to enter; applications at the chamber office at 461-1694 or call Debbie Lafferty at 461-7008
Parade route: Start at Hines behind Kvols Park; west on Hines to 11th Street; south on 11th to Washington; east on Washington to Fifth Street; north on Fifth back to Hines.

What: Santa in Kvols Park
When: 4 p.m. on Dec. 10

What: Christmas Lighting Contest
Who: Best Residence Lights; Best Business Lights
When: Entries due by Dec. 9; judging on Dec. 12