While many people will race though shopping malls and big box stores the day after Thanksgiving, Twirl is hosting a bright and festive alternative to kick off the holiday season.
The 12th annual Twirl Aglow Party will take place Friday (Nov. 29) from 3-5:30 p.m. in the courtyard at Twirl Playspace, 225 Camino de la Placita. Admission is free and everyone is invited.
It's "a community party," said Anaïs Rumfelt of Twirl. The tradition started when the nonprofit first opened. "We're not into Black Friday," she said, and they thought, "Let's have Bright Friday and start the holiday season off with happy!"
The party, held outside in the courtyard, is especially festive in the snow, with decorations and planning begun weeks in advance. Final preparations include "one very intensive week of decorating," Rumfelt said. "We go to the forest, we get trees, we start making the magic all next week."
"People come through the gate and see a big courtyard with trees and bobbles and Twirl elves. People are lined up to see Santa. There's crafting upstairs - families can go up and make an ornament or something creative together."
According to Twirl sources, their Santa is "the best Santa in town," and they will again offer face-painting by "the fabulous Tatyana." The Twirl elves might look somewhat like gnomes this year.
In addition to the music, crafts and sweets, there will be the annual Twirl Aglow raffle. This year they will be giving away a night's stay at Taos Ski Valley's Blake Hotel, a $250 Twirl gift card and a "Play and Create" basket. Proceeds from the raffle go toward the Twirl community outreach programs.
Some people don't know that Twirl is much more than a toy store. It's a nonprofit, a discovery space, dedicated to play, creativity and exploration.
Though Twirl has two other major events, one for The Paseo art expo in the fall and the Invent Event at Enos Garcia Elementary School in the spring, Twirl Aglow is their biggest event -- and biggest party -- of the year.
Most of what they do at Twirl, including Twirl Aglow, is free for the community.
Donations are always welcome to support the event and their free programing. This year the proceeds will go toward their outreach programs "where they go into area schools and communities and bring programs that foster creativity," Rumfelt said.
"We like to provide those kinds of programs to people who otherwise wouldn't be able to do it," said community outreach director Nina Silfverberg.
The community programs hosted by Twirl seem almost endless. There are in-school programs and programs throughout the county, both formal and informal, that touch the lives of many youth of Taos.
There's Invent Event at Enos Garcia, with the theme of tinkering and making, and Wonder Play, Twirl's program through Paseo, which this year focused on "celebrate, contemplate and question our interactions with each other, nature and the world," according to the Twirl website.
At the Taos Day School at Taos Pueblo, there are family engagement nights every other month that focus on science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the arts, as well as an after-school program every other month.
During the summers, on Straight Arrow Road, Connie White, a first-grade teacher at the Day School, organizes "about 60 kids and their families" to do "a fun pop-up play" and even pony rides. This past summer, they made balloon-powered boats out of recycled materials.
At the beginning of the summer, there are rockets at the library.
All year, Twirl facilitates Robot Play, an exploratory learning program in which students engage in a teach-the-teacher model. Twirl has been able to secure grants that make it possible to have enough resources to leave robots with the teachers when they leave, and not only in schools in the town of Taos - Enos Garcia, Taos Integrated School of the Arts, Arroyos del Norte and Taos Day School. They "just finished their program with the 5th-graders in Questa," organizers noted.
Twirl also collaborates with Amber Vasquez to bring word play through movement to students in preschool and kindergarten.
Their goal is "to engage with families, to have families playing, creating and exploring together," Silfverberg said.
In years past, Twirl Two has offered summer camps for the public. Last summer they decided to specifically collaborate with other programs serving high-risk kids to provide a space to play, create and explore.
"The kids loved it and they went away loving having been able to get their hands in," Silfverberg said.
Anyone wishing to start their own holiday season with a little bit of playing, creating and exploring might do well to be one of those lined up down the block for Twirl Aglow.
For more information, call Twirl at (575) 751-1402 or visit twirltaos.org.
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