Steamboat Springs When it came time to tell Santa Claus what she wanted for Christmas, 3-year-old Gillian McKinney had one simple request - "Presents."
McKinney got her turn on Santa's lap Friday night at Main Street Steamboat Springs' annual "Light Up the Night" event. Hundreds of families turned out, children and dogs in tow, for the ceremonial lighting of the tree at the corner of Fifth Street and Lincoln Avenue to kick off the Christmas season.
Gloved hands gripped cups of hot chocolate on the Routt County Courthouse lawn, as attendees enjoyed carol singers and a visit from Santa Claus, who arrived with help of the Yampa Valley Carriage Company. Parents hoisted bundled-up children atop their shoulders for better views of The Jewel Singers, the Emerald City Opera's a capella group, singing Christmas carols on the courthouse steps.
"We came to see Santa and his sleigh," said Terri Tyo, in town from West Virginia with her kids to visit her husband, who works at Twentymile Coal Mine.
Tyo and her four children climbed aboard Santa's sleigh, parked along luminaria-lined Lincoln Avenue, to shoot a photograph for their Christmas card.
Tyo and her friend Sarah Massey said Light Up the Night was just as enjoyable for them as it was the kids.
"It really gets us excited about Christmas," said Massey, a college student from Huntington, W.Va., whose husband also works at Twentymile.
When it came time for the tree lighting, the crowd let out an enthusiastic cheer and gave a New Year's Eve-style countdown.
But for most of the young attendees, Santa Claus was the hit of the evening, with families queued up all the way back to the sidewalk.
Steamboat Springs resident Jon Wade suggested his daughter ask Santa for a powder day.
Zing furniture store was awarded first prize in Main Street's Christmas window display contest, which was judged Friday. The idea for the contest stemmed from a visual merchandising seminar earlier this month, according to Tracy Barnett, executive director of Main Street Steamboat Springs.
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