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12-2-LightUpThe Christmas season will officially be ushered into Artesia Thursday evening with a little help from Artesia MainStreet, local merchants, and, of course, Santa Claus.

MainStreet’s annual Light Up Artesia event will kick off at 4 p.m. Thursday, with businesses ready to stay open late for holiday shopping needs and sidewalk vendors setting up their wares in the downtown district.

“We hope the community will come out and enjoy this fun event and support our downtown merchants,” said Elisabeth Jackson, executive director of Artesia MainStreet.

This year, Santa will get an early start on hearing the Christmas wishes of Artesia’s children. Kris Kringle will be available from 4-5:30 p.m. in the foyer at the Artesia Public Library. He’ll take a brief intermission at 5:30 for the Parade of Lights, then return to the library afterward to continue taking requests until 8:30 p.m.

Parents are encouraged to bring their own cameras and cell phones to take free photos of their children with Santa. An ornament craft will also be available for the kids while they wait. Santa’s visit is sponsored by Artesia MainStreet and the Friends of the Library.

The Parade of Lights will commence at 5:30 p.m. at Bulldog Bowl and run east on Main to Roselawn Avenue.

In honor of the Bulldog football team’s upcoming state championship game Saturday in Las Cruces, a brief community pep rally will begin at 6 p.m., following the parade, at The Derrick Floor at Sixth and Main streets. Fans will be able to wish the ‘Dogs and their coaches well, and members of the Artesia High School band and cheerleaders will be on hand to heighten the mood.

Also at The Derrick Floor, 300 luminarias created by third-graders in the Artesia Public Schools system will be on display.

“At the end of the event, third-graders and their parents can take the bag they made if they like,” Jackson said.

A bucket will be available in which to empty sand from the luminarias, along with a box in which to drop the battery-operated candles.

Many Artesia merchants will be offering special promotions and deals during the event, and residents are encouraged to look local as they continue their holiday shopping.

To make the stroll along Main more pleasant, sidewalk vendors will be offering hot drinks and snacks, as well as specialty items. Artesia MainStreet will be selling decks of playing cards featuring the original art gleaned from the summer’s inaugural Red Dirt Black Gold festival for $15 each at Yum Yum Yogurt, with all proceeds benefiting the downtown district and MainStreet.

“Go see Santa Claus, check out the library if you haven’t been there before, and then come downtown and enjoy the evening with your family,” said Jackson. “We’ll have hot chocolate to keep you warm, step inside the shops to stay out of the cold, and enjoy the festive holiday season.”