Combine semi-truck flatbeds, fire trucks, farm and service vehicles and jeeps with sheets of mini-lights, Santa Claus and a lot of kids. Add a heavy dose of imagination and you get Tucumcari's annual Parade of Lights, which wound its way through Tucumcari on the evening of Dec. 8.
A total of 16 entries, ranging from the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum's flatbed-mounted mini-light T-Rex to a holiday-lit all-terrain vehicle, made the promenade, sponsored by the Tucumcari Chamber of Commerce. The procession came to rest downtown at Tucumcari's historic Train Depot downtown.
Debbie Lafferty returned as the parade coordinator this year after a two-year hiatus, shuffling lists, forms and entry numbers like a veteran.
" I did this for 10 years and took a break," she said. "Now I'm back." She rushed off to tend to parade entries before she could say whether she was glad to return.
Spectators huddled near cars that lined the route or watched from within them, making the event a drive-in parade. Temperatures hovered near 60, chilled just enough by a steady breeze to bring out light-to-heavy outerwear for adults and universally bundled-up preschoolers. many of the little ones sat between Mom and Dad on the car hood, carrying on excited conversations about the sleighs, trees and holiday trim blazing by, etched in lights. There may have been as many kids waving from the floats as there were watching, and lots of familiar greetings shouted between watchers and watched.
Leading the parade, Santa shouted holiday greetings from a cherry-picker bucket perched over the cab of the Tucumcari Fire Department's ladder truck. Toddlers pointed and directed starry-eyed gazes and wide smiles at their favorite ambassador from the North Pole.
After the parade, Santa heard the Christmas wishes of a steady stream of children, from infants to kids just old enough to have doubts. Santa sat at one end of the Train Depot's main room and the line stretched to the other end of the hall for more than an hour after St. Nick arrived. Santa seemed to share the above-average height and bass voice of Tucumcari businessman Oran Watson.
Tucumcari High School's band director Paul Gibson and student musician Garrett Le Mons serenaded the gathering with Christmas carols played on saxophones. Children and parents consumed cookies and hot chocololate handed out by Dan C. Trigg Memorial staff volunteers Pat Yorman, Jen Pinkston and Valerie Garcia, or by Lou Briscoe, Diana Beck and Bev Lake of the Altrusa women's club. In a nook of the main hall, a well-appointed, lighted and animated Christmas village of about 30 model railroad-scale buildings entertained visitors. Linda Griggs provided and assembled the display.
"The turnout was greater than last year," said Connie Loveland, chair of the Tucumcari Main Street promotions committee, which coordinated the indoor events. "The community participation was better, too."
She cited the contributions of the hospital and Altrusa and the gift basket raffle sponsored by the Tucumcari High School Class of 2017, currently eight- graders at Tucumcari Middle School.
Three anonymous guests from San Jon and Logan acted as parade entry judges.