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Hotel Colorado’s tree lighting ceremony takes more than Santa’s Workshop to host

Hotel Colorado director of catering Kristen Keefer and marketing manager Taylor Thulson sort through planning and decorating documents in preperation for the lighting ceremony on Friday evening.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Around the holidays is when Taylor Thulson and Kristen Keefer refer to a map. This helps them pinpoint just exactly how and where staff decorates each room inside Hotel Colorado, from its grand piano lobby down to the very last suite.

“We literally created a map from the cad drawings of the hotel,” Keefer said. “We mark on there where every tree goes.”

Keefer is Hotel Colorado’s director of catering. The upstate New York native has worked for the past 10 years. Thulson, the hotel’s marketing manager, is a Roaring Fork native and worked for the hotel the past four years.



Hotel Colorado director of catering Kristen Keefer and marketing manager Taylor Thulson sort through planning and decorating documents in preparation for the lighting ceremony on Friday evening.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

After taking on the holidays and hosting Hotel Colorado’s tree-lighting ceremony for so long they’ve memorized that it takes 60 holiday trees to entirely decorate this Centennial State treasure. It also takes an estimated half million holiday lights to cover the hotel top to bottom. The hotel even hires artist Angela Drake to paint windows with holiday scenes.

“We have (trees) all throughout the lobby, in Legends Coffee Shop, in every banquet room, inside the restaurant, inside all five signature suites,” Thulson said.



The historic Hotel Colorado has hosted many notable dignitaries throughout its long-standing past. A bust of Teddy Roosevelt adorns a west entrance. A photo of the Mayo Brothers hangs from a lobby wall. Notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone also made his way through this majestic, high-country castle.

The annual Hotel Colorado lighting ceremony kicks on Friday at 3 p.m. and will conclude with the fireworks show and lighting scheduled for just after 7 p.m.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

But what’s even arguably greater is when this hotel of Italianate-style architecture envelopes itself in holiday decorations every year. The tree-lighting ceremony slated for Friday evening has been a tradition for the past 32 years, and hotel staff must begin preparing for it the first weekend of October to ensure this twinkling extravaganza is ready by the first weekend of Thanksgiving, Keefer said.

“It’s basically the entire staff,” she said. “We don’t get any outside help for decorating the entire hotel. We do it as a team.”

This all can be quite overwhelming.

“We’re also booking holiday parties, taking Thanksgiving reservations, Christmas reservations, Breakfast with Santa Reservations, all at the same time,” Keefer said. “It’s just a busy time of year for us, but it’s very festive, and we try to load on as much as possible.”

An infant gets their photo taken with Santa in the Devereux room at the 31st annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony on. The annual Hotel Colorado lighting ceremony kicks on Friday at 3 p.m. and will conclude with the fireworks show and lighting scheduled for just after 7 p.m.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

This year’s celebration includes a Winter Wonderland lineup of events, including ice carving, a gingerbread house competition, caroling by Denver Dolls, performances by Symphony in the Valley and more. 

The countdown for the tree-lighting ceremony and ensuing fireworks display will be led by Santa Claus, hotel owner Marian Melville and hotel president Christian Henny.

“I’ve been a local my entire life, so I’ve been to quite a few lighting ceremonies. I think I’ve only ever missed one or two my whole life,” Thulson said. “It’s always been a family tradition that we’ve come and seen the fireworks go off, and it’s changed so much over the years.”

Seeing the lightning ceremony and everything else Friday come to fruition is rewarding, Thulson said. Everyone can come out and see how hard hotel staff has worked to operate the event.

A young child looks in awe at the lights at the 31st annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony. The annual Hotel Colorado lighting ceremony kicks on Friday at 3 p.m. and will conclude with the fireworks show and lighting scheduled for just after 7 p.m.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

But for Thulson it’s more than just the event itself. All throughout December is when the great Hotel Colorado is completely decorated in holiday lights, and people can come anytime they want to bask in illuminative displays and enjoy festive drinks in the hotel coffee shop and bar.

For now, however, Keefer is simply looking forward to Friday running smoothly.

“My favorite part is when the fireworks go off and we can take a breath, if I’m being honest,” she said. “It’s pretty stressful to make sure everything goes well.”

IF YOU GO

What: 32nd Annual Lighting Ceremony

Where: Hotel Colorado, 526 Pine St.

When: Begins 3 p.m. Friday

How much: Free

The Denver Dolls sings carols for the crowds at the 28th Annual Festival of Lights at the Hotel Colorado. The annual Hotel Colorado lighting ceremony kicks on Friday at 3 p.m. and will conclude with the fireworks show and lighting scheduled for just after 7 p.m.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent
SCHEDULE 

Indoor/courtyard

  • Live ice-carving demonstration in the courtyard, 3-5 p.m.
  • Photo lab bar,free holiday photo booth in the Garden Room/East Veranda near the courtyard, 3-8 p.m.
  • Meet and greet with Santa in Devereux Ballroom, 3:15-5:10 p.m., 5:30-6:45 p.m., 7:45-9 p.m.
  • Gingerbread competition in the Roosevelt Banquet Room, 3-8 p.m.
  • Symphony in the Valley performance in the Colorado Room, 5-5:45 p.m., 7:45-8:30 p.m.
  • Boy Scout Troop 225 sells hot cocoa and cookies on Sixth Street, 5-8 p.m.
  • The Denver Dolls caroling in the lobby, 6:10-6:30 p.m., 7:15-8 p.m.

Main stage

  • Welcome by the Melville Family and Hotel Colorado President, Christian Henny
  • Glenwood Springs JROTC, 6:10 p.m.
  • Liberty Classical Academy sings Christmas favorites, 6:15 p.m.
  • Legacy Dance Company performs dance routines to various Christmas songs, 6:25 p.m.
  • The Denver Dolls singing various Christmas songs, 6:35 p.m.
  • Dance of the Sacred Fire performs, 6:45 p.m.
  • Lighting ceremony and fireworks show countdown led by Santa Claus, Marian Melville and Christian Henny
  • Lighting and fireworks begin, 7:05 p.m.

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