Lighting up Hotel Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” There was no snow on the ground, and the sun was beaming. Around Glenwood, no one was caroling or hanging their stockings by the fire. Still, last Saturday just felt like Christmas.
At least it did inside Hotel Colorado. As it does every year, the place was revving up like crazy for its Pageant of Lights.
“I just love it,” said Sandy Alexander, as she carefully arranged bulbs on a tree. “And it gets you in the Christmas spirit.”
Like 150 others this season, Alexander volunteered to decorate the hotel. While she, like everyone else, received no payment, she got room and board for a few days ” not to mention the warm, bubbly feeling of continuing such a long-standing tradition.
Without folks like her, you see, tonight’s opulence and live music and visits by Santa simply wouldn’t be possible.
And, on Saturday, all the helpers just looked happy to be lending a hand. Though most were from the Front Range, they didn’t seem to have minded the drive one bit, either.
“It’s always exciting,” said Barb Stasko as she walked through a hallway, still littered with branches, ornaments and teddy bears.
To her, the hotel represents not only the history of the area but her own past, as well. She and her husband, Frank, recently celebrated their 50th anniversary there. The first time they visited the hotel, it was their honeymoon.
“Oh, it’s a very special place,” she said.
Though she didn’t hear Stasko, little Megan Alexander, 8, was in total agreement.
“I love this place,” she said, wide-eyed and giggling.
She seemed more than jazzed about her first time volunteering.
“And it’s really fun,” she said, all hyper. “And you get free rooms and comfortable beds.”
As she helped her aunt string up little white lights, there was a flurry of action going on around them. People were propping up Christmas trees and dousing the halls in fluffs of fake snow. Tall men were on ladders and hanging wreaths, and little kids were concentrating hard on getting the toy trains running. In certain corners, nativity and Polar Express scenes were displayed. Everywhere, the holiday energy was pungent, comforting and infectious.
As Christopher Price put it, it was like “a living Christmas card.”
It also represents something profoundly personal for him. This was the first date he ever took his girlfriend, Jacy Montoya, on four years ago. They’re now engaged. As he sees it, in this technological, busy society of ours, there’s hardly any place for people to come together and create something. This is one big, wholesome exception.
“I guess that’s how I look at it,” he said. “It’s kind of like a barn raising for our time.”
To quote Valerie Smith, it’s the “Hotel Colorado holiday community.”
As the volunteer coordinator, and longtime former hotel employee, feels, this is a labor of love for everyone involved. She sees something unique in it, not only in the walls of the building but in all the people who help spruce it up every year. She kept using the word “incredible” ” to describe the event, the volunteers, the hotel’s history. When everything is finally ready, and the lighting ceremony actually takes place, quite often it brings tears to her eyes, she went on. She made no bones about her love for this Glenwood institution.
“It’s just a wonderful place to be a part of,” she said.
Tonight, everyone around is invited to do just that.
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