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'Find the Grinch' contest highlight of Aztec Sparkles holiday celebration


Whoville scenes being painted in windows of businesses all over Aztec

AZTEC — Christy Clugston knew she would have to get creative when it came to coming up with ideas for scenes to paint for the "Find the Grinch" promotion she initiated as part of the annual Aztec Sparkles holiday celebration.

But she can't help but laugh when she describes her favorite painting, one she came up with for the front window of Aztec Plumbing & Supplies on Main Avenue in the downtown district.

"It's of the Grinch sitting on the toilet," she said, chuckling and explaining how she thought the scene was a natural, given the nature of the business.

Clugston and approximately 20 of the young students she works with as founder and CEO of Inspire heART have been busy for the past few weeks painting storefront windows all over town as part of the promotion. Every window features a scene from Whoville, the fictional community immortalized in the Dr. Seuss classic, "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," or a depiction of the Grinch somewhere inside the business.

Shoppers who pick up a "Find the Grinch" card and have it stamped by at least 10 of the 22 participating businesses will be entered into a drawing that will be held during the Aztec Sparkles holiday celebration on Saturday, Dec. 11. The winner of the drawing will take home a gift basket full of merchandise, gift cards or discount cards from those establishments.

Clugston, an accomplished artist, pitched the idea for the promotion to the Aztec Chamber of Commerce, which is sponsoring the contest and the Aztec Sparkles celebration in partnership with the City of Aztec. Though she normally works in acrylic paints on canvas, she said she enjoys painting windows and likes the sense of holiday spirit the contest has promoted.

"I really kind of wanted to do it because I love Hallmark movies, and I love unity in a community," she said.

Clugston also recruited many of the students she works with at Inspire heART, a nonprofit art therapy organization housed in the former Aztec Theater. Inspire heART aims to use visual art as a healthy, creative outlet for the negative emotions many young people may be feeling.

More: Nonprofit arts therapy group founded after Aztec High shooting moves into Aztec Theater

Debbie Klein, the vice president of the Aztec Chamber of Commerce, said she loved Clugston's idea as soon as she heard it and was eager to fold it into Aztec Sparkles, which is making its return this year after being cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I feel like the community needs it," she said of the holiday celebration. "We've been cooped up so long, and so many people have been shut in. We need to get back together and do things."

Clugston said she had finished 15 of the paintings by Dec. 3 and still had another eight to go. The contest runs through Saturday, Dec. 11, which is the day when Aztec Sparkles culminates with a series of activities throughout the day.

"It's one of the funnest things to paint because it's very forgiving," Clugston said of the Whoville theme. "Everything is crooked anyway. Everything is so quirky, you don't have to be this amazing painter."

Klein said the response to the Whoville paintings has been very positive, especially among some business owners who were reluctant to participate at first. She hopes the idea catches fire and draws curious visitors throughout the week, emphasizing the fact that businesses scattered throughout the town — not just in the downtown district — are taking part.

"Our goal is to get people into the businesses," she said.

More: Calendar of events

Aztec Sparkles will be highlighted by such events as the Santa Dash 5k and 10k the morning of Dec. 11, as well as an afternoon ceramics painting class at the 550 Brewing Taproom and a carnival at the Aztec Boys & Girls Clubs. Hay rides will be offered downtown, where a DJ will be providing a musical soundtrack. Live music and refreshments will be available at various venues, while Clugston and her crew at Inspire heART will be offering face painting.

A Whoville/Grinch costume contest will take place downtown at 5 p.m. The Aztec Sparkles Parade begins at 6 p.m. on Main Avenue, and the festivities conclude afterward with the lighting of a community Christmas tree in Minium Park.

Call 505-334-7646 for a full schedule of events or for more information about the "Find the Grinch" contest.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.