An uplifting Christmas tradition |

An uplifting Christmas tradition

Dale Shrull
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Photo by Dale ShrullNew Castle resident Bobby Haywood is all smiles atop a hydraulic lift while decorating the 55-foot-tall spruce tree in his yard.

NEW CASTLE, Colorado – It’s expected, it’s appreciated and it has been a Christmas tradition for the past 23 years.

Bobby Haywood smiles as he looks skyward at the enormous spruce tree in his front yard on Midland Avenue in New Castle.

“Some people think I’m crazy,” Haywood says with an ever-present smile.

It is true that Haywood is a bit of a meticulous nut when it comes to stringing lights on the 55-foot tree.

Every year, people expect that big tree to be a shining example of Christmas spirit. Bobby Haywood is more than happy to oblige.

“I guess it’s an obligation to Christmas spirit. I just like to do it,” he says.

People start bugging Bobby as early as November about his big tree and the impending holiday season.

This year, four days before Christmas, there was a knock on Haywood’s door.

He chuckles when he recalls the visit from a young boy.

“My mom told me to tell you that you’re a weenie for not putting lights on your tree this year,” the youngster said to Haywood.

The plan was already in the works and two days before Christmas, Haywood dug out the lights from storage, bought more lights and rented a hydraulic lift to get to the top of the tree.

Approving supporters drove by tapping their horns, neighbors stopped by to watch and family members shouted support.

All the while Bobby Haywood smiles, the trademark smile that can only belong to this New Castle native.

To some longtime New Castle folks, Haywood is as recognizable as the barren smoldering coal seam on the ridge south of town.

Working late into the darkness on Thursday, Bobby wants to make sure that the lights are ready for Christmas Eve.

His home with the big tree is the same home where he was raised. He flashes his smile and admits that he’s a bit of a redneck.

Haywood, 53, remembers back in 1982 when he and his dad returned from a hunting trip on the Flat Tops with two four-foot trees that they planted in the yard.

In 1987, Haywood started stringing lights on the one remaining tree.

This is one tradition that has grown a lot more difficult over the years. That little tree got big.

Now, Haywood uses the hydraulic lift to get 45 feet into the air, then he uses a modified 15-foot tree trimming pole that has a hook on the end to help re-position the light strings.

More than 800-feet of light strings drape the tree. A “rebuilt” angel sits at top shining brightly.

After the lights are placed, Haywood walks up and down the street to examine his work. “I want to see what it looks like when people drive by,” he says.

If he sees something that’s a little out of place or not to his liking, it’s back up the tree.

Like all Griswold-like Christmas projects, it takes work, but Haywood is one of those guys who likes to think of others. Of course, he likes to drive around the block a few times and walk up and down the street admiring his work, but this home-cooked holiday masterpiece of Christmas spirit is about sharing.

Bobby doesn’t like to let people down. The lady who stops him in the grocery store, that old friend who asks when the lights will be up, that son of a friend or his nephew who will look at that tree and smile – Bobby can’t let them down.

Yes, it’s a bit of an obligation, but Bobby Haywood is more than happy to deliver a little Christmas spirit.

He estimates that it costs as much as $500 to rent the lift and buy lights. But it’s worth every dime.

“I just feel compelled to do it every year.”

The honks continue as Bobby sends neighborly waves in return. Bobby has always embraced the neighborly spirit that was entrenched in many New Castle natives as they grew up in a town that had just a few hundred residents when he was a kid.

It was a tradition that started with a pint-sized tree and a couple of strands of Christmas lights back in 1987. Today it’s a major chore but the tradition lives on in the yard of Bobby Haywood.

The one thing that has never changed or diminished is that patented smile on the friendly, neighborly face of Bobby Haywood.

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