AZTEC — The holiday season swings into full gear at the Aztec Christmas Festival today.

Residents looking for a sleigh-full of family-friendly options will need to look no further than the historic downtown area. It's a good thing, too. San Juan County is expected to receive its first snow by midday.

The annual offering of free events will begin with a carnival at the Boys and Girls Club. Families can play games, win prizes, and make tree ornaments from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Santa will park his sleigh and reindeer and board a big red fire truck to lead the Main Street parade. Floats decorated in the spirit of the city's "Aztec First" buy-local theme will roll at 5 p.m. from Mesa Verde Avenue, between Chaco and Chuska Streets.

"With tomorrow's schedule of events, people will have a good opportunity to buy local for any holiday gifts they still need to buy," said City Manager Josh Ray, who will take part in the parade with his family. "I look forward to seeing Santa Claus riding in the parade. I hope I made his good list."

At the conclusion of the parade, Santa's fire truck will deliver the beloved jolly man with the most famous white beard in the world to the family center of the Boys and Girls Club. Children can sit on Santa's lap and tell him their wish lists. In return, Santa will offer each child a brand new book, donated by BP as part of the Business for Books drive.

Angela Watkins, program director for the Aztec Public Library, promised there will be plenty to engage and entertain children and adults alike.


"After visiting with Santa, families can visit local vendors' booths to purchase handmade wares and other seasonal items," Watkins said.

In the library, kids can make handmade ornaments and snowmen and enjoy free cookies and cocoa. The Koogler Middle School Choir will sing carols.

The library also will be screening holiday films Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. Hot cocoa, cookies, and coffee will be offered for free.

"At 7 p.m., we will announce winners of the raffle to win a free Amazon Kindle and Christmas tree with all the trimmings," she said. "Everyone will be given a ticket for the tree at the door. The Kindle will go to the person whose reading receipt is selected in the drawing."

Watkins said the library has encouraged children to collect and bring in their checkout lists of library books as part of an early literacy program begun last month. The Kindle was provided courtesy of the Aztec Masonic Lodge #25; the decorated tree was donated by local business Essentially More.

Sponsored by the chamber of commerce, Chokecherry Jam, a Farmington bluegrass quartet, will play a set of their mandolin-and-banjo-infused music from 7-8:30 p.m. at San Juan College East.