Lights go on at Hotel Colorado |

Lights go on at Hotel Colorado

Chance Chassen, 5, admires a holiday display at the Hotel Colorado.
Will Grandbois / Post Independent |

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As strings of lights begin to go up around town, the Hotel Colorado’s display is primed to take center stage.

“I think for a lot of locals it’s the beginning of the Christmas season,” said Kerry Koepping, marketing director for Providence Hospitality and mastermind for the annual Festival of Lights, which takes place Friday night beginning at 6 p.m.

Koepping helped hatch the idea in 1989, drawing inspiration from the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C.

“We felt Colorado and Glenwood needed something like this,” he said. “It began in small steps and culminated in what you see today.”

In 2013, the hotel was rated one of “America’s Best Hotels for Christmas” by Travel and Leisure magazine. This year, the display includes 250,000 lights, including 65,000 new LED bulbs.

“We’re really trying to convert the whole property to LED over the next few years,” Koepping said.

Several striking winter scenes are already on display, including a major expansion to Gingerbread Alley using 2,100 bricks of real gingerbread. There’s also a dancing Santa Claus and an antique sleigh from 1893 — the year the hotel opened.

“We have things geared toward the kids, but also pieces that harken back to elegance gone by,” Koepping said.

The whole project, inside and out, represents more than 2,000 man hours by 85 volunteers who came from as far away as Texas.

“It has really become a community-based, volunteer effort,” Koepping said, “It’s so important for us to give back.”

It has proven extremely popular, with an estimated 4,500 attendees last year. Koepping has a theory on why that is.

“I think that people need an embodiment of the holidays as a celebration, instead of something commercial,” he said.

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