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Festivals kicking off the holidays

Pancho Claus waves to drivers in Nob Hill in this file photo just before an earlier Nob Hill Shop and Stroll, which will be Thursday.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The winter holidays are right around the corner, and that means the start of holiday street festivals designed to bring new customers to some of Albuquerque’s most famous neighborhoods.

The holiday festivities kick off with the Nob Hill Shop & Stroll Thursday evening, where visitors can peruse shops and restaurants along the iconic stretch of Central Avenue. The activities switch to the other end of Central on Friday, when the Old Town Holiday Stroll is expected to draw thousands of visitors for a massive holiday tree-lighting ceremony and other festivities. Both events have been staples of the community for more than two decades, and both are designed to get visitors shopping in parts of town they don’t always visit.

The Nob Hill Shop & Stroll got its start in the mid-1990s, according to Kelly Brewer, co-owner of Organic Books, a Nob Hill bookstore that opened last year. For years, Brewer said a neighborhood association closed Central Avenue to cars, creating a pedestrian-friendly environment in the middle of the road. This year, with the city closing roads two nights later for the Twinkle Light Parade on Saturday, Brewer said the road is staying open for the shopping event.

From 5-10 p.m. on Thursday, shops in the semi-circular Nob Hill Business Center and adjacent streets will open their doors outside business hours to customers. Brewer said the event includes a tree-lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. in the business center parking lot, as well as a market featuring arts and crafts made by local teenagers from 6-8 p.m. There will also be strolling carolers, luminarias, a booth for selfies and three food trucks on scene.

In a neighborhood that has seen a number of businesses close in recent years, Brewer said it’s a chance for new and established Nob Hill businesses to show off some of the positive changes in the neighborhood.

“There are a lot of new businesses in Nob Hill,” Brewer said.

On the other side of town, the Old Town Holiday Stroll can bring up to 9,000 visitors to Albuquerque’s original town site for holiday cheer, according to Bree Ortiz, community events division manager for the city’s cultural services department.

“It really does kick off the holiday season,” Ortiz said.

The Old Town event will include a tree-lighting ceremony on the plaza. There will also be free admission to Explora, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science and the Albuquerque Museum during the evening event. Ortiz said more than 90% of the businesses operating in the neighborhood keep their doors open to potential customers.

“Beside Balloon Fiesta weekend, this is their biggest night of the year,” she said.

Ben Baca adjusts the garland and lights on the facade of the San Felipe de Neri Church Museum and Gift Shop as merchants in the area are prepared for last year’s Old Town Holiday Stroll. This year’s even is on Friday.

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