Farmington Holiday Traditions Have Deep Roots

Riverglo, 6-8 p.m. Nov. 30 in Farmington, features hundreds of traditional luminarias on the trails in Berg Park, along the Animas River. Courtesy/

Farmington News:

FARMINGTON—well known as the place where active families and outdoor lovers thrive—provides a unique holiday experience, complete with longstanding annual events that draw intrigue from locals and visitors.

Farmington’s annual events have deep roots, most dating back several decades. Each event offers an authentic glimpse into the culture and history of the area, as well as an experiential vacation that will delight visitors of all ages.

Kicking off the holiday season is a festive favorite, Riverglo, 6-8 p.m. Nov. 30. Dating back to 1998, the festival is in its 21st year and aims to celebrate the natural scenery of the region. The event is free and features hundreds of traditional luminarias on the trails in Berg Park, along the Animas River.

“We initially started Riverglo to get people out of their cars to experience the beauty of nature and the wonder of the holidays, while walking the river trails,” Chairman Riverglo Dr. Robert Lehmer said. “Riverglo is a beautiful, festive event with holiday music, cider, hot chocolate, Santa Claus, and glow stations with necklaces and bracelets for kids.”

Throughout the years, the event has expanded to include a nativity scene with live animals and people dressed in costume, which adds an element of fun for all ages.

“It’s a wonderful thing to get outdoors, breathe some fresh air, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the holidays,” Lehmer said. “At Riverglo, music and nature come together to create an enchanting holiday atmosphere that celebrates the culture of the Four Corners Region.”

The magic of the holidays continues Dec. 1 at San Juan College, with the 40th Annual Luminarias Display. The event, which began as a way for San Juan College to provide a meaningful gift to the community, showcases more than 30,000 luminarias lighting rooftops, sidewalks, parking lots and courtyards. The glimmering holiday display is a community effort, with more than 500 children (mostly kindergartners) from 10 local grade schools joining in filling the bags with sand and candles prior to opening night.

College students, staff and community members and organizations all contribute to the tradition by setting up bags, lighting candles and hosting the event. Spectators can walk through the display, beginning at 5 p.m., or drive through, beginning at 6 p.m. The event is made complete with snacks and beverages for sale, Christmas carols broadcast on KSJE, a Luminaria Stargaze at the Planetarium 6:30-9:30 p.m., and a performance at 7p.m. of A Christmas Carol at the Little Theater.

Another longstanding tradition, dating back to 1985, is the Drive-Through Live Navajo Nativity, presented by Navajo Ministries. The event was created by husband and wife duo Jim and Kay Baker, in order to showcase the true meaning of Christmas to the community of Farmington, while incorporating the beautiful culture of the Navajo. 

“My wife and I were houseparents at Navajo Ministries when we started this Christmas tradition,” Jim Baker said. “We wanted our children who were living here in our Four Corners Home for Children to have the opportunity to be a part of the excitement of reliving that first Christmas, Navajo Style, complete with a real baby wrapped in a cradleboard. Since we had animals in our small ranch program, we had access to several kinds of animals to be part of the scene, too. Our goal was to bring the holiday spirit to life for our children, and for the community. This ‘Living Christmas Card’ to the community is our way of focusing attention to the reason for the season and also a way of thanking our friends in the area for their support.”

Since its inception, the event has grown to encompass Navajo choirs singing carols, sometimes in Navajo. This year’s Nativity is 6-8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21 at Navajo Ministries, 2103 W. Main St. in Farmington. The event is free, although donations of food or funds are accepted.

“Farmington is a community with a huge heart,” said Executive Director Tonya Stinson of Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Join us this holiday season and experience the unique history of our annual events. A holiday visit to the Four Corners Region is a great way to add a sense of wonder, magic and joy back into your holiday traditions.”

For more information on Farmington or to plan a visit, go to