Portales kicks off holiday with tree lighting ceremony

Argen Duncan

Santa would have brought Rudolph, but it’s deer season in New Mexico, the jolly old elf explained during the lighting of the Mayor’s Blessing Tree Monday night at the Yam Theatre.

Along with a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, the annual event included a performance by Portales High School choir students, 36 dozen cookies, ornament decorating, a coloring contest and more. For the first time, the lighting was held at the Yam, and Mayor Sharon King asked citizens to write a blessing to hang on the city Christmas tree.

King said the nation has had a tough time and asked the audience to load on the blessings. People can also visit City Hall to write a blessing for the tree.

“We’re having a really great time,” said lighting attendee Sara Krafft.

Krafft and her 5-year-old son, Connor Pino, were attending the event for the first time. She said she liked that the children were invited to participate in the tree lighting.

King directed the children to count to three, and the tree lights came on at the final number.

Connor said the tree lighting was really good.

“Best about it was the star on top and the blue ornaments,” he said.

Eastern New Mexico University students Emily Vickers and Rychelle Lewis attended the lighting with friends after Vickers learned about the event through ENMU’s “Monday Memo” electronic newsletter.

“It’s so cute,” Vickers said of the event.

She said it was awesome to decorate Christmas balls and the cookies were great. Attendees could take their ornaments home.

Lewis said the event was neat. She wrote a blessing for her cousin, Jake Murphy, who is deployed in Afghanistan.

Makenzie Diaz said her sons, 7-year-old Baylor and 5-year-old Devin, were excited when Santa arrived on a fire truck. Baylor said his favorite part of the event was singing because he could sing “Jingle Bells.”

Santa led the crowd in “Jingle Bells” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” before posing for photos.

“I think it went really well,” said Yam Theatre Director Joseph Sanders.

Sanders said he was pleased with the turnout and excited the theatre was up and running after its recent remodel.

Portales Woman’s Club provided the cookies for the event, and has done so for at least 17 years, said club member Patrice Tompkins. She would have liked to see more people attend and hopes more do so next year.

“It’s a great way to start the holidays here,” she said.