One Mexico group of families has brought early Christmas cheer for the past several years to the community known as Candy Cane Lane. What started as the families handing out candy canes on Lafayette street with Santa, grew into a weekend event distributing presents to the children who attend. This year's Candy Cane Lane was Saturday.

"Every year, our family gets together and we decorate our street for the whole community," Rhonda Hill said, who also portrayed Mrs. Claus for the event. "We have houses on our street. We're all family and we all decorate the street all the way down."

The free event distributes toys to children and parents can take pictures of their children with Santa. The event is coordinated by Rose Barnes, Hill said. Most of the festivities take place next to Barnes' house.

Hot chocolate and cookies also are served. A list of businesses who helped support Candy Cane Lane was posted to the special trailer serving hot chocolate. Other holiday characters such as The Grinch and Cindy-Lou Who greet the crowd.

The families, along with Mexico businesses help provide toys for the children who attend. "It's called a gift of love because we're a nonprofit organization. So we've had several businesses this year that have helped us out to buy toys," Hill said.

The families only seek out donations every few years or so, so as to give other local organizations an opportunity to seek business support. Family members throughout the year will purchase toys to replenish supplies. Any remaining toys will be held over for next year's event. The families distributed more than 300 toys last year and expected to give out at least that many this year.

"That way, if the the Angel Tree needs help or somebody else needs help, they can," Hill said about when the families seek donations, adding this was the event's 13th year.

They families first started just handing out candy canes with Santa. Then children in the neighborhood would come to just see santa, and they started handing out stuff animals. Eventually this grew to other types of toys.

"We went from having like 50 kids, to 200 kids, to last year 305 kids," Hill said.

Multiple Mexico businesses have helped with this year's event. These include, but are not limited to, Webber Pharmacy, Dos Arcos, Tacos and Tequila, businesses throughout the downtown square, Graf and Sons and American Family Insurance, among others. "There is a huge list of [who donated]," Hill said, adding there were about 40-50 businesses that donated.

Each house had a different theme for its lights and decorations, such as Frozen or a Winter Wonderland Theme Park. The event went from 5-9 p.m. Saturday. Several were already there Saturday waiting for Santa to arrive.

"This [event] is not for recognition for us. We don't decorate for recognition. We decorate for the community. We do it for the joy of Christmas and the children in our community. Some kids don't even get a lot of toys and we were able to get some really nice gifts this year," Hill said.

cdunlap@gatehousemedia.com