By Cactus Jane

If you’re in the Big Bend during the holidays, be sure to check out Marathon. It’s a little town off Hwy 90 that knows how to have big fun during Christmastime.

Fiesta de Noche Buena is a party that takes over the downtown strip every year on the first Saturday of December. The party goes on rain or shine, and considering that there are only a whopping 470 people who claim Marathon as home, it’s quite a festive feat! All of the shops open up, from the Gage Hotel on one end to San Rosendo Crossing on the other, and it’s like a giant bar-hop slash bazaar browse, with an emphasis on good old fashioned holiday cheer.

This year’s Fiesta had a street band and live music inside several of the shops. The shops are super cute—you’ll find eclectic goodies from floor to ceiling, and there are lots of hand-made and artisanal crafts. So sure, you can go shopping, and many revelers were buying Christmas gifts, but you could also just visit and enjoy the people, snacks and drinks. Each store had a nice spread of hors d’oeuvres, all for free! Plus, there was free flowing local craft beer thanks to the Chamber of Commerce. Toward the earlier part of the evening, Chamber volunteers were actually going up to people—whether they knew them or not—and offering a cold one. It was pretty nice. They definitely want to encourage folks to have a good time. It’s a little thank you to visitors and locals alike.

Marathon is known for having the friendliest people in the entire region, and Fiesta de Buena Noche is proof. Striking up conversations with people was easy, and one shop owner offered to spike my cup of homemade wassail– which turned out to be delicious! If you show a little friendliness in Marathon, it will be repaid in kind, and then some. One of the highlights was the Baile Folklorico dance performance. The dancers couldn’t have been older than 10-12 years in age, and there was one tot who was so little—he must have been 2 or 3 years old. It was adorable to watch them dance, and the street band played well into the evening.

When you’ve been travelling the wide and empty roads of the Big Bend (and the holiday season is a great time to do so), a little pop of festive cheer can be very welcome. Marathon offers that, and more. You can count on seeing Christmas light displays on homes and businesses, because there’s a contest that encourages a little friendly competition on who does it up the best, with categories for the most modern light display, most traditional, most religious, and more, and the town really gets into it. This makes for the perfect evening time cruising activity after Fiesta de Buena Noche, or on any night of the holiday season. Plus, Marathon residents are super friendly.

Marathon resident Bob Freeman pictured with one of the handcrafted flutes he makes with wife, Jodie. The flutes were for sale in the Rusty Rabbit, one of the galleries on the main strip.

Fiesta is for having fun and enjoying the lights. Revelers hang out in front of San Rosendo Crossing drinking wassail and snacking on homemade cookies.

The show must go on! Marathon’s Baile Folklorico group performed under a canopy on the damp streets to a delighted crowd.