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The Griswolds of Glenwood Springs

Anne-Marie Kelley
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent
ALL |

When Paul Carlson goes to work, he gets called Mr. Griswold.

It’s a reference to National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation,” a classic Christmas movie in which Chevy Chase puts 25,000 lights on his house. When he calls the family to switch them on, none of the lights work.

Co-workers aren’t calling Carlson Mr. Griswold because his lights don’t work, though. It’s because his lights are unbelievable.



“We start right after Halloween, and I won’t quit until Christmas,” Carlson said.

Blues, reds, dripping icicles, stars, you name it. It’s all there. To find Carlson’s home, just head uphill away from the river on Palmer in downtown Glenwood Springs. You’ll see the lights well before you arrive at his front door.



“I enjoyed them, and I thought the more the better,” Carlson said. “I just keep thinking of more places to put them.”

And more ways to create them, his wife, Maura, would say. One weekend, they stopped by Real Deals and bought a $4 candle holder. A day later, it was strung with lights and suspended from a tree in the front yard.

Carlson started putting up serious Christmas light displays about five years ago. He’s not really sure how he went from putting up a few lights to putting on an extravaganza.

“We used to drive around town with the kids in their pajamas and look at lights,” Maura said.

Their son, Kevin, has always played a big part in putting up the lights. In fact, he was the tree climber, putting the lights in high places. This year, he came home from college one weekend to help out.

Maura said her husband gets a kick out of people driving by to see the lights. Lots of people stop and take pictures, which makes him feel great. His only regret is that they don’t come up and say, “Hello.”

“I want to know who’s enjoying them,” he said. “Come on in for some hot chocolate.”

Almost due west, across the river on Red Mountain, is another giant lights display. This one is different, more old-fashioned, says home owner Charlotte Cunningham. This home on West 12th Street has lights, numerous inflatables and six mechanical, lighted creatures.

“It’s my husband’s biggest thrill,” Cunningham says. “Each night, he comes home from work, we eat dinner and then he sits and watches people go by.”

Jeff and Charlotte started their lights display as a friendly competition with their former neighbors, Vance and Linda Gabossi. Both Jeff and Vance are electricians and did it for fun. While the Gabossis have taken a hiatus for the past two years, the Cunninghams think it’s too much fun. Inside and out, they like the blinking lights.

“Christmas in our house is a hoot,” said Charlotte from her job at the Through the Looking Glass bookstore. She said they start putting Christmas lights up right after Halloween and pretty much work on it every weekend until Thanksgiving.

“That’s the first day the lights go on,” she said.

Both the Cunninghams and the Carlsons have been awarded by a “lights judge” who knocks on their door, hands them a bottle of wine or a six pack of beer and announces that they have one of the best lights displays in the community. And both families seem to have the blessings of nearby residents.

“Our neighbors expect us to put it up because then they don’t have to do anything,” Cunningham said, adding that one neighbor gave her the invitation to continue on into their yard.

That’s what Carlson has already done to the north and south of his home. And one year he got a great card from the family across the street.

“It had a picture of a dog with sunglasses on,” Carlson laughed.

While decorating a tree is not the same as decorating an entire yard, John Goss did his share of light stringing this year, too.

“I saw this big tree and thought it would be fun,” said the man behind the Glenwood Vaudeville Review. “I realize now I have more passion than brains.”

He’s talking about his decision to string lights on the tree outside the Masonic Temple across from the downtown Glenwood Post Office. Goss admits he has never put lights up before. The tree just inspired him and before he knew it, with a little help from DM Neuman Construction Co.’s crane, he spent a week on a ladder stringing very colorful LED lights on the 97-foot tree.

Goss decided to continue the fun with a contest. He’s asking people to guess how many lights are on the tree. The person who gets the closest will win an evening for two at the Vaudeville Show. So far, Goss said people are either way off on their guesses or surprisingly close.

Other noteworthy Christmas light displays in Glenwood Springs include the Hotel Colorado’s festive front yard and the outlined tepees going up Four Mile Road.


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