Santa’s sleigh sounded a little different in Mancos Friday night.
Instead of the whimsical chime of bells wafting through the air, the scream of Mancos Fire District sirens alerted residents that Santa was on his way to the soaring Christmas tree in the center of downtown, where families and friends gathered after floating through galleries that stayed open later to honor the occasion.
Jim Harris, who has dressed in the familiar festive red suit each holiday season for seven years, was thrilled to do the honors of lighting the town’s iconic Christmas tree for the first time.
Mayor Queenie Barz led a countdown, before the bright white lights of the fir flooded the street and cued the Mancos Valley Chorus to burst into song.
About 50 people were present for the kickoff to the town’s Christmas celebrations, and Santa took the time to instill a little magic in the children present, delivering personal greetings — and likely receiving a few wish list requests.
One thrilled child could be heard shouting into the night “Santa came to town!”
The night was especially meaningful for Mancos residents Shar Thomas and Cathy Yost.
The two sisters were on the first Mancos girls track team in 1972.
They’ve been running ever since – including in this year’s Rudolph Run.
As energetically as the red-nosed reindeer himself, about 50 Mancos residents dashed through downtown in the annual run Friday proceeding the tree’s’ lighting, they said.
While the sisters’ separate paths took them to the likes of places like New Mexico and Wyoming, they both gravitated back to Mancos.
“We just had to come back home,” Thomas said. “This place is so loving.”
The sisters’ cheer was contagious. Outfitted in striking reindeer suits complete with beaming string lights, it’s a tradition for them to facilitate Christmas spirit in Mancos each year, and their outfits are always successful in “bringing out the kid that’s still in us,” Yost said.
“It’s just a lot of fun,” she said.
Organizer Carrie Summers of Colorado Ranch and Home Realty said the event has been a mainstay in the community for about 30 years. Once a participant herself, she’s been overseeing the hallmark run for several years.
“I love Mancos, so I’m involved in all kinds of things,” she said.
Summers also serves as a board director for the Mancos Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Participants had the option to run a 1 mile or 5k race, or simply enjoy apple cider by a fire outside of the Colorado Ranch and Home Realty’s office.
“It’s the start of the Christmas season in Mancos,” Summers declared.
Before the pandemic, the race usually drew about 100 participants, Summer said. In 2020, only about 30 people took part, she said.
Residents could indulge in hot chocolate at the Artisans of Mancos gallery, or sample the new Spur Trail Ale at Mancos Brewing Co.
If children missed their opportunity to whisper their wishes to Santa, they can find him downtown Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m, sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary No. 5231.
And, on Dec.16, the Mancos Valley Chamber of Commerce is slated to host a community gather awards presentation from 5 to 7 p.m. at Mancos Brewing Co.