30th annual Bent Street holiday tradition invites the whole community

By Yvonne Pesquera
Posted 12/7/18

The holiday block party known as “Bonfires on Bent Street” will happen Saturday (Dec. 8) in the Taos downtown historic district. Throughout the day ...

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30th annual Bent Street holiday tradition invites the whole community


The holiday block party known as “Bonfires on Bent Street” will happen Saturday (Dec. 8) in the Taos downtown historic district. Throughout the day, you can find sales, raffles and special events at stores along Bent Street and in the John Dunn Houwe Shops.

From 4-7 p.m. is the evening reception with light refreshments for all. Around dusk is when the merchants light traditional farolitos (candles in paper bags) and luminarias (bonfires) lining the street.

This is a free event. The street is closed to traffic for family-friendly strolling. The holiday spirit runs high at this event. It is, after all, the celebration’s 30th year.

Polly Raye, an organizer of the event, said, “The merchants offer this celebration to thank everyone for their year-round friendship and support, to make new friends and to celebrate the light within and without.”

The merchants wholly throw themselves into the merrymaking. Customers are greeted throughout the day with refreshments, such as holiday cookies. In the evening, when the bonfires are lit, Taos Blue will offer s’mores and Taos Cookery will have a bonfire with marshmallows to roast, cider to drink and giveaways to take home.

“As it has for over 25 years, Bent Street Café & Deli will offer tamales, chile, holiday cookies, hot cider and hot chocolate at the junction of Bent Street and John Dunn Way. Mudd ‘n’ Flood will serve chile and other treats, and La Tierra Minerals will offer posole, chips and salsa outdoors as well as hors d’oeuvres and treats inside the shop,” Raye said.

Free entertainment is also provided. Mudd ‘n’ Flood will once again host its Wheel of Fortune with great prizes. Around 5:30 p.m., the Taos Community Chorus Troubadours will harmonize at the stairway in the center of John Dunn Shops. Later Julia Fernandez de Maez will perform sword belly dancing outside Sam’s Shop on Bent Street.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, caroling groups are welcome to stroll the streets and gather around bonfires. Everyone is encouraged to join in the holiday singing.

And of course, Santa Claus will arrive to greet excited children.

“This annual celebration is always held close to the winter solstice, the time when the sun is at its greatest distance from our hemisphere. From Neolithic times, gatherings and feasts have been a traditional part of solstice festivities, a way of sharing and giving thanks for all that we are given,” Raye explained.

The Bent Street stores and John Dunn House Shops are locally owned. The merchants carry a wide variety of unique, quality gifts in all price ranges. You can expect to find: fashions for men, women and children, shoes, wine, art, books, cookware, outdoor gear, crafts, folk art, eco and solar gifts, jewelry, pottery, fossils and minerals, yarn, blankets, fabrics, leather goods, and more.

Several cooperative galleries offer unique artistic gifts that are Taos-made.

Everyone loves to eat and a restaurant gift certificate often makes the perfect stocking stuffer or office party gift. Holiday strollers can purchase gift cards at Lambert’s of Taos fine dining restaurant, Bent Street Café & Deli and Cici’s Coffee Shop.

The majority of Bent Street and John Dunn merchants have been in their location for decades. One new face this year is Cici’s Coffee Shop.

“It was Coffee Cats but is now Cici’s with new owners who refurbished the space and brought in new local coffees. The owners are Tory Gordon and Norm Cutliff. They grew up here. Cici is their daughter’s name,” Raye said.

One special feature of this event is the annual “Santa Paws” benefit. From noon until 4 p.m., Santa Claus will be on hand to pose for photos with your pets in front of the Op.Cit. Bookshop. This is a benefit for the Stray Hearts Animal Shelter.

“Santa Paws is always a lot of fun because people bring their dogs and make friends. Dogs and dog owners strike up instant friendships,” Raye said.

Weather permitting, Stray Hearts board members and volunteers will be have pets ready for adoption. This is a special opportunity for families to learn about all of the pet services that Stray Hearts provides as well as consider adopting a new furry family member for the holidays.

“Stray Hearts does so much for this community. This is a way for people to meet the volunteers and thank them,” said Raye.

Bent Street runs the length of one block from Paseo del Pueblo Norte to Camino de la Placita. The John Dunn House Shops is a pedestrian mall that intersects with Bent Street. Combined, the two areas contain a large variety of charming shops and galleries and reflect the historic nature of their namesakes: Territorial Gov. Charles Bent and “Long” John Dunn (so nicknamed because of his height).

Their personal histories are charged and at times, colorful.

In 1847 Bent was named the first civilian governor of the New Mexico Territory, which had been newly acquired by the United States. New Mexico remained a territory and only entered statehood in 1912.

According to, these were highly tumultuous times in the new territory. The U.S. government accused Taos Pueblo Native Americans and Hispanics of “rebellions” and brutally massacred them in response.

On January 19, 1847, rebels broke into Bent’s house and killed him. You can visit his home, which is now a historic museum on Bent Street: the Governor Bent House Museum.

Dunn, on the other hand, had plenty of friends. His legendary existence in Taos is built around his various roles as a saloon-keeper, stagecoach driver, horse thief, smuggler, and notorious gambler, to name a few of his legal and not-so-legal occupations. Author Max Evans wrote the definitive biography titled: “Long John Dunn of Taos: From Texas Outlaw to New Mexico Hero.” The John Dunn House Shops are located in his historic home.

If you go to the event, be sure to dress warm and keep track of your kids, especially as it starts to get dark around 5 p.m. these days. For more information, call Op.Cit. Books at (575) 751-1999.


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