Christmas … off and running!

Hundreds brave cold front for festive light display, 5K event

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Yukon Progress, Yukon Review
Chill Your Cheeks 5K runners compete in the Nov. 17 event that began Yukon’s Christmas celebration. (Photo by Alyssa Sperrazza)

By Alyssa Sperrazza
Staff Writer

Hundreds from across the state braved the cold temperatures and wind Saturday for Yukon’s annual Chill Your Cheeks 5K, aptly named for the cold weather that settled in.
Runners, friends, families and plenty of dogs gathered at Chisholm Trail Park to kick off

“Christmas in the Park” and an evening of holiday cheer.

Race coordinator Tim Rhodes said when all was done the evening was a success.

“Considering what Mother Nature did to us last minute, it had been a great turnout,” Rhodes said. “We made some changes this year bringing out the carnival and the food trucks all in the same area, but you look around right now and the crowd… Yea it’s going well. Like I said Mother Nature’s gonna affect the turnout but I think the people out here are having a blast, loving the live music, loving the events going on and everything else happening.”

Some runners wore Christmas costumes, participating in a costume contest, others were stocked up on hand warmers, grabbing hot chocolate after the race to stay warm.
Patty Hull, a Yukon native, said she’s been competing in the 5K since 2013 and loves coming out to the festival.

“I would stay and do the fun stuff afterward but it’s too cold,” Hull said. “My favorite thing though is just running through the lights. I love running in Yukon.”

The lights lit up the park with every color bulb imaginable on display. Cars lined up S. Holly Avenue, hundreds of them rolling through the park to see the light display. Children belted Christmas carols out car windows, adding to the magic of the lights.

For Yukon native Judy Walker, walking through the light festival was an early Christmas miracle since she’s now cancer free.

“I’m a native Yukon, been here for like 44 years and I haven’t been able to come out and see the show in a long time so this is my first time in several years,” Walker said. “I’m enjoying it like crazy.”

Families ran through the light displays and for the Hawkins family, this is a personal favorite.

“Loved tonight, we had hot cocoa and mini donuts and now we’re gonna take pictures on the bridge,” Debbie Hawkins said, who has been attending the festival for years. “I love the light festival… every year, we come from El Reno.”

The evening was full of Christmas lights and hot chocolate, but there were two special guests who joined the holiday festivities, ones that Santa just had to greet himself.

Rose and Cupid, reindeer in flight training in Bristow, Oklahoma, came out to help Santa kick off the holiday events in Yukon. And for flight trainer Nick Ledbetter, and his family, Susan and Parker, letting people see the reindeer is just a reminder that Christmas magic does exist.

It was three years ago when Susan’s grandson Parker asked why he never saw any reindeer. Susan told Parker she wasn’t sure they were real, thinking they were just magical creatures you hear about in stories. But, in order to keep Parker believing, she and Nick suddenly found themselves at a reindeer convention, reading to keep the magic of Christmas alive.

“We went to the Polar Express Train ride and we had seen Santa Clause and Mrs. Clause and elves and after it was all over, Parker asked how come we see everyone with Santa but the reindeer?” Nick recalled. “So I thought we have to find a number to the North Pole and we’ve got to find out if Santa will let us be a member of his flight training crew.”

Now with six reindeer on their farm in Bristow, Oklahoma, the Ledbetter family helps spread Christmas cheer by showing the reindeer at events like Yukon’s light festival, hoping children will see that they’re real and keep believing in the Christmas magic.

“Most kids, especially in Oklahoma, go through life only seeing reindeer on a movie, in a book… they’ve heard of them but they’re just a mythical creature to them,” Nick said. “And then when they can walk up here and see that reindeer are actually real live animals that pull Santa’s sleigh, their eyes light up and they get really excited for Christmas.”

Cupid is well known for flying Santa’s sleigh but he was joined Saturday by a less notable reindeer by the name of Rose. Cupid is mentoring Rose and helping her learn to fly.

“Most people haven’t heard of Rose but Rose is the little sister of Rudolph,” Nick said. “A lot of people don’t know Rudolph has a little sister but it is Rose the reindeer. Of course, Cupid is already an accomplished flyer but Rose is still learning and so every now and then Santa will bring in one of his accomplished flyers to help younger ones fly straight.”

They weren’t able to showcase their flying skills at the festival, saving up their strength for Christmas Eve, but the youngsters were enchanted nonetheless and happy to see Santa joining Cupid and Rose.