Santa Fe Trail Day is one of Las Animas' biggest events, slated for the last Friday in April each year.

April 26 is the big day this year. Santa Fe Trail Day is run by the students at Las Animas High School and is the longest running student-sponsored community event in the nation. This is its 85th year.

“This event is very important to our community," Las Animas Mayor Jim Collins said. "People come back to town for it, and it is sort of a Spring homecoming event when people come back to visit. There is usually at least one class reunion. The students work extra hard to give back to the community. It got smaller for a while, but now it’s getting bigger again. When I was a teacher, I enjoyed seeing the kids engage the community members in the celebration.”

The parade starts at 10 a.m., but there are other events leading up to it, such as the costume judging in he cafeteria at the high school between 8 and 9 a.m. and the Queen and King judging in the commons area from 8:30 to 9 a.m.

The Frontier King candidates will compete in the Frontier Skills Contest from 3 to 4 p.m. at the school district bus barn. The event is new to this year's festivities. Susan Waring, school district communications officer, said the students requested it be added.

Booths and games may be found from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Sixth Street and Carson Avenue, and are sponsored by the Trinidad and Las Animas Chamber of Commerce.

The 14th annual Santa Fe Trail Day Art Show, sponsored by the Bent County Art Guild, takes place April 23-30 at the John Rawlings Heritage Center .

Viewing after judging will be 8-10 a.m. and 12 - 4 p.m. on April 26. A wine and cheese celebration is scheduled for 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

The parade lines up at Fourth Street and Poplar Avenue from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., with the great frontier parade starting at 10 a.m.

The theme for the parade this year is “Stargazers 'N Trailblazers.” T-shirts have been pre-ordered, but Theresa Garcia, the chamber of commerce manager, said there will be a few extra at $13 for large and extra large and $15 for 2XL and 3XL.

“The big draw is the square dancing contest,” said Waring. “The freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors have been practicing for a month."

The contest will take place at 2 p.m. on Friday, after the sale of plants from the greenhouse by FFA students and the Ranch Burger Dinner at the High School from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The sophomores are raising money for next year’s Santa Fe Trails Day.

These events will take place at Las Animas High School, as well as the Queen and King Coronation and the Awards Ceremony that follows the square dancing contest.

The candidates for the Frontier King and Queen are Freshman Class: Markus Vigil and Phoebe Frausto; sophomore class: Joseph Hawking and Dannel Elmore; junior class; Cutter Nichols and Jimmi Boyd; senior class: Devon Frazier and Jo Surles.

The Santa Fe Trail Days Men's and Coed Softball Tournament is scheduled to be played at the Las Animas softball fields April 27 and 28.

Entry fee is $180 per team. Format is double elimination. To register, call or text 719-468-5121 or 719-468-4915.

Slots are filling fast; tournament is open to first eight teams only.

“Santa Fe Trail Days is the big event of the year in Las Animas,” said Collins. “It is really important to the community, and to the kids that work so hard to put it on.

“The students’ goal is to remember their ancestors and honor their struggles, work, and achievements through the festivities called Santa Fe Trail Day.  Our region is home to a very colorful background and we proudly celebrate all of the people who travelled, settled, and lived in this area. The students celebrate the legacy of these Native Americans, mountain men, and settlers who made the area what it is today.  We are dedicated to keeping the rich history that Southeast Colorado has to offer alive.”