SALIDA, Colo. (CBS4) – Every year the quaint mountain town nestled along the banks of the Arkansas River transforms into a winter wonderland.

The Friday following Thanksgiving, thousands of people gather. They are bundled up in layers and sipping hot cocoa, on F Street — the main drag in the historic downtown — to meet and greet Santa, watch the annual Christmas Parade of Lights and see “S” mountain transform into Christmas Mountain.

Volunteers spend weeks stringing thousands of lights on the face of a mountain overlooking downtown, creating a Christmas Tree that can be seen from passing commercial aircraft passing above.

People line the street to watch the floats decorated with lights, a tradition that grows every year, according to event organizers.

This year CBS4 Mountain Newsroom reporter Matt Kroschel has been asked to serve as the parade Grand Marshal.

Matt Kroschel

Matt Kroschel (credit: CBS)

Salida is Kroschel’s hometown and he said he can’t wait to get back to celebrate the start of the holiday season.

Festivities continue with a Community Open House at the SteamPlant Event Center with free cocoa, cookies and music.

Downtown shops and galleries stay open extended hours, and local restaurants and bars are bustling with activity.

Mark your calendars: Friday, November 27, 2015, from 4 p.m. – 10 p.m. in Salida, Colorado!

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