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Hotel Colorado’s tree lighting ceremony requires more than just Santa’s workshop

Kristen Keefer, Hotel Colorado’s catering director, and Taylor Thulson, marketing manager, review planning and decorating materials in preparation for Friday night’s lighting ceremony.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Around the holidays, Taylor Thulson and Kristen Keefer relate to a card. This helps them determine exactly how and where the staff will decorate each room at the Hotel Colorado, from the grand lobby to the very last suite.

“We literally created a map from the CAD drawings of the hotel,” Keefer said. “We mark where each tree goes.”

Keefer is the Hotel Colorado’s catering director. A native New Yorker from upstate New York, he has worked for the last 10 years. Thulson, the hotel’s marketing manager, is from Roaring Fork and has worked for the hotel for the past four years.



Kristen Keefer, Hotel Colorado’s catering director, and Taylor Thulson, marketing director, review the planning and decorating materials in preparation for Friday night’s lighting ceremony.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

After taking the holidays and hosting the Hotel Colorado’s tree lighting ceremony for so long, they remembered that it would take 60 Christmas trees to fully decorate this Centennial State treasure. It also takes an estimated half a million Christmas lights to cover the hotel from top to bottom. The hotel even hires artist Angela Drake to paint holiday scenes on windows.

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



The historic Hotel Colorado has hosted many notable dignitaries over its long history. A bust of Teddy Roosevelt adorns a west entrance. A photo of the Mayo Brothers hangs on a wall in the lobby. Notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone also made his way through this majestic highland castle.

The Colorado Hotel’s annual lighting ceremony begins Friday at 3:00 p.m. and concludes with the fireworks show and lighting scheduled for just after 7:00 p.m
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

But what’s arguably even bigger is when this Italian-architecture hotel wraps itself in festive decorations each year. The tree lighting ceremony, scheduled for Friday night, has been a tradition for 32 years, and hotel staff must begin preparations the first weekend in October to ensure this sparkling extravaganza is ready by the first Thanksgiving weekend, Keefer said.

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

All of this can be quite overwhelming.

“We also book holiday parties, take Thanksgiving reservations, Christmas reservations, and Breakfast with Santa reservations,” Keefer said. “It’s just a busy time for us, but it’s very festive and we’re trying to load as much as we can.”

A toddler is photographed with Santa in the Devereux room at the 31st Annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony. The Colorado Hotel’s annual lighting ceremony begins Friday at 3:00 p.m. and concludes with the fireworks show and lighting scheduled for just after 7:00 p.m
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

This year’s celebration includes a series of winter wonderland events, including ice carving, a gingerbread house contest, Denver Dolls Christmas carols, performances by Symphony in the Valley and more.

The countdown to the tree lighting ceremony and the fireworks that follow will be led by Santa Claus, hotel owner Marian Melville and hotel president Christian Henny.

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

To see the blitz ceremony and everything else come to fruition on Friday is rewarding, Thulson said. Anyone can come out and see how hard the hotel staff worked to make the event happen.

A young child looks in awe at the lights at the 31st Annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony. The Colorado Hotel’s annual lighting ceremony begins Friday at 3:00 p.m. and concludes with the fireworks show and lighting scheduled for just after 7:00 p.m
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

But for Thulson, it’s more than just the event itself. Throughout December, the grand Hotel Colorado is completely decked out in festive lights, and guests can come whenever they like to bask in glowing displays and celebratory drinks in the cafe and enjoy in the hotel bar.

For now, though, Keefer is just looking forward to Friday going smoothly.

“My favorite part is when the fireworks go off and we can catch our breath, to be honest,” she said. “It’s quite stressful making sure everything is going well.”

The Denver Dolls sing Christmas carols for the crowd at the 28th Annual Festival of Lights at the Hotel Colorado. The Colorado Hotel’s annual lighting ceremony begins Friday at 3:00 p.m. and concludes with the fireworks show and lighting scheduled for just after 7:00 p.m
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

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