The Hotel Colorado tree-lighting ceremony takes more than Santa’s workshop

Hotel Colorado director of catering Kristen Keefer and marketing manager Taylor Thulson sift through planning and decorating documents in preparation for Friday night’s lighting ceremony.
Chelsea Self / Post-Independent

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

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

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



Hotel Colorado director of catering Kristen Keefer and marketing manager Taylor Thulson sift through planning and decorating documents in preparation for Friday night’s lighting ceremony.
Chelsea Self / Post-Independent

After being on vacation for so long and hosting the Hotel Colorado tree lighting ceremony, they have remembered that it takes 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 head to toe. The hotel even hires artist Angela Drake to paint windows with holiday scenes.

“We have (trees) all over 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 throughout its long history. A bust of Teddy Roosevelt adorns a west entrance. A photo of the Mayo Brothers hangs on a lobby wall. Notorious Chicago mobster Al Capone also made his way through this majestic high-rise castle.

Hotel Colorado’s annual lighting ceremony begins Friday at 3 p.m. and concludes with the fireworks display and lighting scheduled for a little after 7 p.m.
Chelsea Self / Post-Independent

But perhaps even greater is when this hotel with Italian-style architecture is wrapped in Christmas decorations every year. The tree-lighting ceremony scheduled for Friday night has been a tradition for 32 years, and hotel staff should prepare for it the first weekend in October to ensure this twinkling extravaganza is ready by the first weekend of Thanksgiving, Keefer said.

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

This can all be quite overwhelming.

“We also book holiday parties, take 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 in as much as possible.”

A baby gets their picture taken with Santa in the Devereux room during the 31st Annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony. Hotel Colorado’s annual lighting ceremony begins Friday at 3 p.m. and concludes with the fireworks display and lighting scheduled for a little after 7 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, Symphony in the Valley performances, and more.

The countdown to the tree-lighting ceremony and subsequent fireworks is led by Santa Claus, hotel owner Marian Melville, and hotel president Christian Henny.

“I’ve been a local all my life, so I’ve been to quite a few light ceremonies. I think I’ve only missed one or two in my life,” Thulson said. “It’s always been a family tradition to watch the fireworks go off, and that has changed a lot over the years.”

It’s rewarding to see the lightning ceremony and everything else come to fruition Friday, Thulson said. Anyone can come out and see how hard the hotel staff worked to organize the event.

A young child gazes in awe at the lights at the 31st Annual Hotel Colorado Lighting Ceremony. Hotel Colorado’s annual lighting ceremony begins Friday at 3 p.m. and concludes with the fireworks display and lighting scheduled for a little after 7 p.m.
Chelsea Self / Post-Independent

But for Thulson, it’s more than just the event itself. Throughout the month of December, the amazing Hotel Colorado is fully decked out in Christmas lights, and people can come whenever they want to bask in illuminating displays and enjoy festive drinks at the hotel’s coffee shop and bar.

For now, though, Keefer is just looking forward to a smooth Friday.

“My favorite part is when the fireworks go off and we can catch our breath, if I’m being honest,” she said. “It’s pretty stressful making sure everything goes right.”

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

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