Annual Hometown Holiday Celebration starts this Friday
2015 Hometown Holiday Celebration
8 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Open House at Down Valley Design Center / Home of Colorado Kitchens
9 a.m. - 7 p.m.
CMC Pottery Sale at the Rifle Middle School
Window Display Contest: All Businesses via Facebook (see the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce Facebook page for details)
Finding the Yule Log Scavenger Hunt: Pick up your first clue at Alpine Bank Downtown Location All Businesses
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Open House at Midland Arts Company
Open House for Bookcliffs Arts Council at the Whistle Pig Coffee Stop and Cafe
Rifle Animal Shelter serving snacks at the New Ute Events Center
Santa at the New Ute Events Center
Rifle High & Coal Ridge High Choir Performances at the New Ute Events Center
Window & Scavenger Hunt Prizes Awarded at the New Ute Events Center
Jingle Bell Hop Community Dance at Rifle United Methodist Presbyterian Church
9 a.m.- 4 p.m.
CMC Ceramic’s Sale at Rifle Middle School
9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Silt Holiday Celebration and Vintage Photo’s at Silt Historical Park
10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Rifle Animal Shelter pictures with Santa at the Second Street Lot
10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Cactus Valley Craft Fair at Silt/Cactus Valley Elementary School
10 a.m.– 4 p.m.
Rifle Chamber Community Craft Fair at Rifle Middle School
Carolers at downtown businesses
Ornament Making at the Rifle Branch Library
Santa at the New Ute Events Center
Sleigh Rides around Downtown Rifle
Bonfire and Snacks at the Second Street Lot
Tree lighting at Centennial Park
Parade of Lights from the Garfield County Fairground to the Second Street Lot
Benefit for the Rink Family at Farm Fresh Cafe
Free showing of the “Polar Express” at Brenden 7 Theaters (bring canned food for donation)
Community Choir Concert at the New Ute Events Center
Santa Claus, carolers and other signs of the holiday season return to downtown Rifle this weekend for the second annual Hometown Holiday Celebration, and organizers are excited that the growing list of events could draw even larger crowds to the town’s core.
“It’s going to be awesome,” said Gina Reece-Long, special programs coordinator for the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce, which is spearheading the event along with a committee consisting of representatives from other organizations.
In addition to some of last year’s favorites — such as Santa Claus at the New Ute Events Center, the yule log scavenger hunt and the tree lighting in Centennial Park — new events have been added this year.
Those include a Jingle Bell Hop community Dance on Friday at Rifle United Methodist Presbyterian Church.
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Other existing events, such as the Silt Historical Celebration at the Silt Historical Park and Rifle Animal Shelter’s photos with Santa, have been brought into the fold, as has as the community choir concert, which for years was hosted at a local church.
The addition of Sunday — which stretches the celebration to three days — was done to allow for the community choir concert, which will be at the New Ute Events Center, to act as a closing event.
The growth in just the second year, while welcomed, might seem surprising, but then again, so was the celebration’s success in its first year, Reece-Long and others involved said.
Hundreds lined Railroad Avenue for the Parade of Lights last year, according to a story in The Citizen Telegram.
“It was amazing, pretty much unbelievable, to get that in the first year,” Reece-Long said. “I’m an event coordinator and I know that it usually takes three to four years to get something up and running, so I was amazed.”
The surprise stems from the absence of a large holiday-themed celebration in Rifle the previous year. The former Holly Days event, organized by the Telegram, waned over the years, and Reece-Long remembers about three people participating in the 2012 Parade of Lights — the last year for Holly Days.
After 2013, Johnson Construction, Inc. approached the Chamber with a desire to see a renewed effort toward organizing a holiday celebration.
“I just want to have a hometown where community and family is number one, and we can all come together and enjoy our hometown as best we can,” said Mike Johnson, owner of Johnson Construction.
The family-owned company, which has been in Rifle for generations, put up close to $20,000 to get the event off the ground, according to Johnson, and it is spending about the same amount this year. Both the company and the Chamber agree that all the events must be kept free and open to everyone.
With any number of events going on at the same time, though, Reece-Long realized that rather than competing with those events, it would be better to bring them into the mix — allowing for one centralized campaign.
For example, a benefit dinner and dance for Lori Rink and Amelia Bradley — who were killed in an October car crash — is listed in this year’s schedule of events. The focus is on community and in the future, Reece-Long said she wants to hear from other organizations that plan on hosting an event. The community component is what led Rifle United Methodist Presbyterian Church to get involved this year, said Pastor Lisa Petty.
“We said ‘we really wanted to be a part of the community more,’” Petty said.
Following the success last year, excitement seems to be building for this year’s celebration.
“It seems to be something people are really looking forward to,” Johnson said.
Last year’s parade was not the only event that attracted a large crowd. At the Brenden Rifle 7 movie theater, about 400 people turned out for a screening of “The Polar Express.” The screening brought the largest crowd to the theater during general manager Tyler Kelly’s time in Rifle, he said. In past experiences, similar events at other theaters typically would draw 70-80 people, according to Kelly.
“It blew my mind,” he said of the crowd last year.
The event, which was free to those who donated a canned good, returns this year.
Other adjustments were made to accommodate the crowds. The craft fair was moved from the New Ute Events Center to Rifle Middle School, and the parade route now runs from the Garfield County Fairgrounds to Second Street on Railroad Avenue. The latter was done after a larger than anticipated number of entrants participated in last year’s parade, which spanned a much smaller stretch of Railroad Avenue.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Chamber had 22 entrants signed up for this year’s parade. The entire celebration, Reece-Long said, would be impossible without the work of the volunteer committee — a group that reflects the community emphasis of the actual celebration.
“I have the greatest committee, with somebody from all of these groups,” she said, “and we’re all working together.”
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