A grand illumination | PostIndependent.com

A grand illumination

Trina Ortega photo

REDSTONE, Colorado ” In the 16 years since she moved to Redstone, Lisa Wagner has known exactly what she’ll be doing every Friday after Thanksgiving.

It involves a giant wall of fire, by the way.

“It’s always big, and it’s beautiful,” she said, of her little town’s Grand Illumination.

Tonight, she’ll be standing in front of the bonfire at the Redstone Inn and enjoying the ambiance created by the 1,000 luminarias dotting downtown. Before that, she’ll play an elf with Santa in the park and peek into the open stores and parade with a crowd to the grand, fiery finale.

This festival only comes once a year, after all. She’s got to do it up right.

“I just love the feel of Redstone,” she said. “It’s just this little, magical moment.”

That’s one she gets to share with throngs of visitors ” not to mention all her neighbors. There’s something about the night, she knows, that you just can’t get anywhere else.

In the words of 14-year local Debbie Strom, “It’s just so basic.”

There’s no blatant commercialism here, no antiseptic environment like a mall or a shopping center, she explained. It’s an all-volunteer, grassroots thing. This is a place that feels real and fun, where people from all age groups and towns can get together and delight in an old-fashioned Christmas celebration ” not to mention the most impressive blaze most of them have seen. For weeks beforehand, she and her fellow Redstone residents always collect piles and piles of dead brush from their homes and deliver it to the inn. The resulting fire, as she put it, is “as big as a house.”

“Even as a child, it’s mesmerizing,” she said. “I mean, it’s a mountain that’s going to burn.”

That “climax of the evening,” is great, Bruce Gledhill, explained. But the other, more subtle moments of the night get him excited, as well. As the pastor of the Church at Redstone, he likes watching people stroll the boulevard and enjoy the pastoral mountain scenes of his church’s stained glass windows. Since moving to town eight years ago, he’s noticed how the evening really does bring folks together.

“I think people just like to come here just to get into the mood,” he said.

That would be the Christmas mood, of course.

It never takes much effort for Wagner to slide into that, though. She loves dressing up, putting on her elf ears or antlers or tinsel wig and having a grand time. She sees her village as picture-perfect, downright Rockwellian. Redstone always has this happy feel that she can revel in, but even more so during this time of year. The celebration is so simple, and yet so nurturing and special, all at once. It’s a place, she thinks, where people can connect with something genuine.

“Especially where the world is now ” let’s just put it that way ” it’s nice to have that down-home feeling,” she explained.

And it’s all only a hop, skip and 30 miles from Glenwood.

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