IF THE MADRID CHRISTMAS PARADE HAD A PRINCESS, Maizie Blue would bear the off-kilter crown. The Española 13-year-old has been riding Solo the Yak, adorned with a bright red nose and led by Santa Claus, along the two-lane route through the former ghost town for 10 years. Owned by her family’s friends Annie and Tom Whitney, Solo serves as the pacesetter for the artist-fueled festivities (which were so grand during the town’s coal-mining heyday in the 1930s that Walt Disney came to see the parade, leading to speculation that it inspired Disneyland’s version). The hippie-meets-the-holidays vibe may carry you throughout the season.
ANNIE AND TOM usually have Solo in his trailer. When they bring him out, the kids come and take pictures with him. Once we see the elves and all the crazy stuff lining up, that’s when I hop on. Sometimes he doesn’t really want to go, so we use some treats to lead him. He gets into it—he’s always ready for treats. Everyone always looks out for Solo.
I just smile, wave to everybody, and try to keep Solo going. I ride horses, so I know how to ride. He’s getting older, so sometimes he doesn’t really want to go. We’re always on the lookout for dogs, because for some reason yaks really don’t like dogs. He’ll charge at them.
Annie and Tom have a dog named Harry, who was from a litter my mom fostered. He’s the only dog Solo won’t charge. Harry likes to sit on my lap or behind me. He gets so excited.
We turn around at the Hollar Restaurant. Kids get on Solo and take some pictures. They give him even more treats. He definitely likes to eat. Afterward, we go over to the Hollar because they have firepits and lights. We get a ton of food and a million people sit with us. There’s usually live music, and everyone’s always dancing.
It’s such a special thing to be a part of. It feels like the parade brings so much joy to everybody.
Read more: Make your own holiday memories at these luminous celebrations around the state.