Marfa Holiday Bazaar brings seasonal magic back to town in an effort to revitalize community-building traditions

Santa was joined at the Marfa Holiday Bazaar this past weekend by Marfa ISD Ballet Folklorico club members. From left: Belen Soto, Amaya Gomez, Daniella Fernandez, Dania Fernandez, Lily Aguero, Kayla Vasquez (partially hidden) and Itzel Urritia. Center back is Aiden Alvarez. Photo by Mary Cantrell.

MARFA — The historic Presidio County Courthouse played host to a festive crowd this past weeked as local vendors selling gifts and treats lined sidewalks, Marfa ISD Ballet Folklorico danced with community members and Santa rode into town on a fire engine as red as his signature velvet suit. 

All were participants of the new Marfa Holiday Bazaar, a three-day event organized by the Marfa Chamber of Commerce. The courthouse lawn served as a gathering place for families and friends throughout the weekend. On Saturday, kids donned green and red holiday garb and sat eagerly for free pictures with Santa. When asked how Santa could make time during his busy Christmas season to visit Marfa, Texas, of all places, he replied warmly, “I have to check on all the little children and make sure everybody’s being good. And Marfa’s exceptionally good at being good.” 

Sounds of joyful holiday tunes played by Mariachi Santa Cruz were sprinkled with the crunch of fallen leaves beneath boots and chit chat between vendors and customers. Shoppers had a variety to choose from — Crystal Gabaldon was selling photographic prints, Elizabeth Farrell displayed a range of watercolor paper goods, Creosote Clay had pottery pieces, Jeff Gallery featured clothes and art objects, and Alta Marfa Winery and Marfa Spirit Co. offered tastings. The Chinati Foundation’s education team operated a popular make-your-own candle station where crafters chose from a variety of scents, including peppermint and gardenia, and whether or not to add silver glitter to their designs. The police provided security for the event and conducted a toy drive for local families in need. 

To Santa’s delight, homemade baked goods were in abundance at the bazaar. Tara Salgado of Sweet Tooth bakery facilitated sugar buzzes by selling popcorn balls, candied apples, cupcakes, biscochos or Mexican wedding cookies, as well as her husband’s beef jerky and mom’s salsa. She currently makes all of her items from home but hopes to open up a brick and mortar one day. Salgado, who grew up in Marfa, has fond memories of decorating gingerbread at the fire station and witnessing the Christmas parade downtown. Marfa used to go all out for the holidays but the enthusiasm has slowly died down, she said. 

“A lot of locals have left and businesses have changed,” said Salgado. 

The bazaar was dreamt up by Abby Boyd, director of tourism and president of the Chamber of Commerce, and her team in order to revive Marfa from its holiday slump. Salgado, who is also a mom, said it was wonderful to see everyone out enjoying the seasonal activities with their kids. The opportunity to vend at the event also helped her connect with repeat customers, she said.

“People will be like, ‘Can I have your number to call you back for an order of these?’ That’s how we grow and get our word out there, especially in a small town,” said Salgado. 

Chief Estévan Marquez, of the Marfa Police Department, was at the bazaar with his family and recalled memories of Marfa during Christmas time as a child. Marquez remembered hot chocolate, late night shopping on the main stretch of Highland Avenue, Santa Claus at Christopher’s and driving around town to wonder at Christmas lights. 

“Before today, this tradition had been basically lost,” said Marquez. “It’s really awesome that the chamber and Abby, everybody put this together. I know it’s a little smaller this year, but I hope it grows and gets back to what it was.” 

Salgado and Marquez’s special memories of Marfa holiday traditions should be passed on to their kids, said Boyd. “I think that it’s only right that we give their kids the same opportunities they had. Hopefully their kids will grow up and want to stay here in Marfa and contribute to this town,” said Boyd.

The time to implement changes and get involved is now, said Boyd. The newer generations of adults in Marfa need to step up to fill vital community roles older generations have been volunteering in for years, said Boyd. 

“It’s our turn to take care of this town. And we have to take really good care of it. Because it could get away from us — this is a special place — and it might get to a point where it’s beyond our power to make changes or preserve traditions here,” said Boyd.

By deepening relationships with neighbors and fellow Marfans, Boyd said citizens can create the town they want to live in. And while tourism is a major focus of Marfa’s economy going forward, events like the holiday bazaar can be a nexus for local connections and visitor appreciation. 

“To me, there’s so much crossover. We can do both. We can create a great tourist economy and a great community,” said Boyd. 

The bazaar may be over, but there is still time to see spectacular Christmas decorations around town. A map of houses participating in the Marfa Lights Holiday Decorating competition can be found on the chamber’s website.