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Dazzling, shimmering, explosive — Hotel Colorado's holiday celebration is back – Glenwood Springs Post Independent

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A local holiday tradition, more than 30 years in the running, is returning with a bang Friday, Hotel Colorado President Christian Henny said.
“In 2019, for our 30th annual Lighting Ceremony, we used more fireworks than ever before,” Henny said. “Because we weren’t able to do much last year, we’re returning this year with the same amount of fireworks.”
Although a ceremony was held in 2020, Henny said the hotel does not recognize last year’s event as part of the grand affair that has become the annual lighting ceremony. Despite being the 32nd year of celebrations, Henny said the hotel dubbed this year’s ceremony the 31st annual.
Coming back strong, Friday’s ceremony schedule is stacked with events for everyone:
At 3 p.m., a live ice carving begins in the hotel’s courtyard, a free photo booth opens in the Garden Room and a gingerbread competition hosted by the Glenwood Springs Historical Society kicks off in the Roosevelt Banquet Room.
Hotel Colorado maintenance employee Gus Sanchez and coworkers work together to get the angel decoration hanging above the courtyard in preparation for the 31st annual lighting ceremony on Friday evening.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Hotel Colorado maintenance employee John Hubbard works with other employees works while decorating the large pine tree outside the hotel prior to Friday’s lighting ceremony.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Hotel Colorado maintenance employee Chris Anderson and coworkers work together to get the angel decoration hanging above the courtyard in preparation for the 31st annual lighting ceremony on Friday evening.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Hotel Colorado maintenance employee Tim Sparks works on decorating the large pine tree outside the hotel prior to Friday’s lighting ceremony.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
The Hotel Colorado is decorated and ready for the 31st annual lighting ceremony on Friday evening.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Hotel Colorado maintenance employee John Hubbard works on decorating the large pine tree outside the hotel prior to Friday’s lighting ceremony.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
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Parents and children can attend a meet and greet with Santa Claus in the Devereux Ballroom from 3:15-5:15 p.m., 5:30-6:45 p.m. and 7:45-9 p.m.
Symphony in the Valley is scheduled to perform twice in the Colorado Ballroom from 5-5:45 p.m. and 7:45-8:30 p.m.
At 5 p.m., Boy Scout Troop No. 225 will start selling hot chocolate and cookies on Sixth Street, which will be closed to traffic for the event.
The celebration begins in earnest at 6 p.m. on the main stage — located in front of the hotel on Sixth Street — with a welcome from Henny and the Melville family, the hotel’s owners.
Main stage events are scheduled in the following order:
At 6:10 p.m, the Glenwood Springs High School ROTC will present the colors, followed by the Liberty Classical Academy singing Christmas Songs at 6:15 p.m.
Richard Ganson will perform live music at 6:30 p.m., and the Legacy Dance Company is scheduled to perform Christmas-themed dance routines at 6:40 p.m.
At 6:50 p.m., Christmas songs are slated to continue with a performance by the Denver Dolls, followed by the Dance of the Sacred Fire at 7 p.m.
Santa will join Henny and Marian Melville on the main stage at 7:10 p.m. to begin the countdown for the lighting and fireworks, which is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.
“Marian Melville’s favorite part of the celebration is joining us on stage to flip the lighting switch each year,” Henny said.
‘Western White House’
For weeks leading up to the ceremony, about 20 hotel staff are dedicated solely to event preparations, Henny said.
“There will likely be up to 10,000 people out front of the hotel and on the (Glenwood Springs Pedestrian Bridge),” he said. “It’s a really special experience, and it’s a way for the hotel to give back to the community.”
This year, employees strung up more than 500,000 Christmas lights and decorated 60 Christmas trees around the hotel.
Six-year-old Amaya Juarez and two-year-old Kolton Kieck tell Santa what they want for Christmas at the 30th Annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony in 2019.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
The Denver Dolls perform Christmas carols for the crowd at the 30th Annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony in 2019.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
The Glenfinnan Highlanders preform for the crowd at the 30th Annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony in 2019.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Fireworks light up the sky at the 30th Annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony in 2019.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Two-year-old Charlie Van-Horn visits Glenwood Springs from Aurora for the 28th annual Festival of Lights at the Hotel Colorado in 2019.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
Three-year-old Caroline Miller (middle) is awestruck by the lights at the 30th Annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony in 2019.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
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Founded 32 years ago by the hotel’s former owners, the celebration originated as a craft show. In 2019, however, Henny said the craft show host decided to discontinue the craft show side.
The hotel, on the other hand, is a much older staple of Glenwood Springs, dating back to the days when the town was officially known as Defiance, Henny said.
Built by silver baron Walter Devereux, the hotel didn’t always welcome the locals with open arms.
“When Devereux constructed the hotel, there was a bridge across the river that led to the town, a rough and tumble mining town typical of the West,” Henny said, adding with a chuckle, “Initially, he didn’t allow the townspeople to cross the bridge, but that didn’t last long.”
President Theodore Roosevelt frequented the hotel in the early 1900s, which earned the establishment’s nickname “The Western White House.” Once, after Roosevelt returned from an unsuccessful bear hunt, hotel staff sewed together a bear out of scrap cloth and towels as a consolation prize. The bear was reportedly named “Teddy” by his daughter, creating the first known “Teddy bear,” Henny said.
During World War II, the hotel was leased to the U.S. Navy for convalescent care, in part because of its access to the area’s world famous hot springs.
Nowadays, the hotel has returned to its former glory as a historic destination and tourism focal point.
Hosting the lighting ceremony is an ode to the visitors who travel to visit Glenwood Springs and the community invested in preserving the city’s glamorous origins, Henny said.
“We at the hotel feel lucky to be at the heart of the holiday celebration,” he said.
Reporter Ike Fredregill can be reached at 970-384-9154 or by email at [email protected].

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