Going crazy for Christmas
EAGLE COUNTY – While most people spend October searching for Halloween costumes and buying candy corn, Isabel Thompson is already testing her Christmas lights. All four boxes of them.Come November, it’s decorating time. “Sometimes we start the weekend before Thanksgiving,” she said. “It takes us a good, full Saturday and Sunday, two weekends. Sometimes two-and-a-half weekends.”The Thompsons are well-known for their Christmas decorating frenzy. They’ve won the Gypsum Christmas light decorating contest a few times. “I want lights everywhere,” she said. “I want a National Lampoon’s kind of thing.”They aren’t alone. Whatever they are going for, local residents and town officials like to deck the halls, the trees, the front porch and even the roof with holiday decorations. When it comes to money and hours spent decorating, though, the town of Vail may take the holiday cake.Vail put $133,000, 2,000 hours of labor and 25.4 miles worth of lights into ensuring the ski resort resembles a winter wonderland. “Everytime I’m driving through the main Vail roundabout, it looks a little like a snow globe,” said Rick Gregory, one of the two Vail employees behind the town’s holiday decor. And that’s exactly what they are going for.
They’re amateurs, but they’re goodAnother veteran winner of Christmas light contests is Catherine Martinez. She and her husband, David, have won Avon’s contest several times. They took the top prize again this year with their patriotic theme.”Every year we try to do it different,” Catherine Martinez said. “This year we did it for the troops who are gone (to Iraq), so we used red, white and blue to support the troops.”The Martinez home also includes a nativity scene, a few signs showing their support for the Denver Broncos and a sign saying, “Happy Birthday, Jesus.”Catherine Martinez said it’s important to remember the meaning of Christmas. And they don’t put up their decorations just to win the contest, she said. “We do it because we like to decorate,” she said. “We love it. If we could do it all year, I would.”Call it a family tradition. Her mom and dad, ages 79 and 81, respectively, still decorate their home every year, Martinez said. Thompson’s parents, however, never really got into outdoor Christmas decorations, she said. “We had a tree inside,” she said. “But I don’t recall many outdoor decorations.”The Thompsons’ home includes a train around the home, a Santa sleigh on the roof, and lights everywhere else, except the back of the house.”Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten the backyard done,” she said, assuring that enough of her backyard is visible to the general public to make decorating there worthwhile.You could say Thompson is the brain behind her holiday decorations, while her husband, Terry, is the brawn. “He really is a great guy,” she said. “He puts it all up there. He’s the artistic one. He color coordinates.”
Dressing up their home for the holidays has its challenges, though. The Thompsons have tripped electrical breakers a couple of times over the years. “It’s beautiful and I love it,” she said. “Then my husband and I are looking around and I see someone putting lights down the shingles, and I say, ‘Let’s do that next year.'”Her husband wasn’t quite as enthusiastic, Thompson said. The professionalsDave Richardson, the second half of the Vail decorating duo, has helped with Vail’s holiday decorations since he started working for the town in 1983. That kind of experience gives him someone perspective. Some people just don’t know how to decorate trees, he said. “It looks like they loaded the lights in a gun and shot them up there,” Richardson said. Gregory, who has been decorating the town for the past four years, agreed.”My philosophy is if you are going to take the time to do something, you might as well take the time to do it well,” he said. As the town’s veteran Christmas decorator, Richardson is in charge of the more challenging parts of the town’s holiday image. He decorates the larger trees, taking care to make sure every branch is adorned with a light, he said. His work begins in September on the pine trees at the main Vail roundabout.”It’s still warm, but I wear long-sleeve shirts anyway,” Richardson said. “The needles are very mean to you.”
The town’s decorating was completed earlier this week. The two like to be creative and decided this year to put a little more color in the town’s holiday scheme. Gregory used multi-color lights at the West Vail entrance. Richardson, on the other hand, said he likes a more traditional look, such as trees decorated with a single color of lights.The town’s decorating effort has evolved and grown over the years, Richardson said. It all started when a former public works director announced one year that he wanted to out-decorate other ski resort communities.”That year we blew the budget,” Richardson said. “We’ve kind of toned it down since then.”The public also has high expectations.For years, white was the color of choice for tree lights. So when the crew decided to do something a little different – such as decorate the tree at Checkpoint Charlie in Vail Village with blue lights – not everyone was happy about it. “It wasn’t even up for a day and six people complained about it,” Gregory said. The crew took down the lights and replaced them with white the next day.Overwhelmingly though, the crew get compliments on how the decorations look, Richardson said. City of lightWant to see some great Christmas decorations yourself? Here’s a list of some first-place winners in town decorating contests:
GYPSUM:• Rex and Rita Bossow, 310 Strohm Circle (overall winner)• Michael Taylor, 521 Second St.• Chris Warner, 218 Eagle St.• Ree Farrell, 708-A Meadow Ct. • Frank and Bonnie Ward, 831 U.S. Highway 6• Kevin and Janelle Kottenstette, 381 Black Bear Rd.• Thomas Klein, 55 Aztec Ct.AVON:• Dave and Catherine Martinez, 901 West Beaver Creek Blvd. #106• Pat, Patty and Faye McKenney 2643 Bear Trap
• Efraim and Teresa Chavez, 901 W. Beaver Creek Blvd. #63The cost of ChristmasTripping breakers aside, decorating your home with Christmas lights has little impact on the local electrical power grid. Holy Cross Energy is primed for a Colorado winter – and the increased use of heat that goes with it. That means a few weeks of holiday decorations are barely a blip on the system, said Bob Gardner, Holy Cross Energy spokesman. “It’s a very small part of our usage,” he said. “Because all the other usages are up, we don’t have anything specific for tree lights. Christmas lights have never been an issue for us.”Gardner suggested residents might use timers for their holiday lights to keep their electric bills from going up significantly. Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado