Light gurus spark Vail’s holiday spirit
VAIL – Rick Gregory and Dave Richardson admit they don’t seem like typical holiday fanatics.Gregory has several tattoos stretching down his arms. Richardson – nicknamed the “Mountain Devil” – has shoulder-length blond hair, a handlebar mustache and listens to Black Sabbath.”I don’t think people picture us as the two most enthused Christmas people in Vail,” Gregory said.But two men and their crews have strung 50 miles of colorful bulbs on trees throughout Vail, which they say can be a cold and wearisome job. But not thankless. The congratulations and back slaps keep the duo going from September through Christmas.”It’s unreal,” Gregory said. “This is my sixth season and I’ve done it every year. This year we’ve had by far the largest response – especially with West Vail.”Sandy Bishop drove by the West Vail roundabout last week, her two grandchildren oohing and aahing at the yellow, orange and red trees.”The trees just made such an impact on them,” said Bishop, an Eagle resident. “That is incredible these two children would be so awestruck by something as simple as two trees.”
Gregory knows aesthetics. He earned an art degree in college. This year, he experimented in West Vail with a new and different theme – fire.Gregory said he tried to mimic the warmth of a campfire or the sun. He strung yellow lights near the trunk, orange mid-branch and red on the branch tips. The result is 2,500, 25-foot strands that seem to set the trees ablaze.”I’ve always had a kind of fire fetish,” Gregory said. “I love the organic movement of flames.”Gregory lives for the response, because the job isn’t exactly fun. After an eight-hour day working until midnight, very little time is left over for Gregory.”I go home and have a beer or two and crash at about 1 or 1:30 a.m.,” he said.
Richardson began decorating for Vail 24 years ago. He originally used garland, working up to lights over the years. Now Richardson said he thinks the trees are over decorated.”We spend three to four weeks on one tree,” he said.Richardson decorates the main Vail roundabout and Covered Bridge area, both of which include 40-foot trees. He reaches the upper branches in a cherry picker.The sounds of AC/DC, Metallica and Black Sabbath on a portable stereo keep Richardson motivated. He prefers to work alone.
“I don’t like to have anybody help me because I don’t like to baby-sit,” he said.Richardson and Gregory see strange things while stringing lights in the roundabouts of Vail. People drive the wrong way on interstate ramps and roundabouts. Others stop mid-roundabout to snap pictures of the lights or to ask directions.”We end up being the middle-of-the-roundabout info guys,” Gregory said.Vandals sometimes attack the trees. They cut the strands or pull down the lights. Kids climb into the branches and wrap themselves in the lights.”What are you thinking. Get your kid out of the tree,” Richardson says to parents.Once Christmas ends, the lights come down. But removing the strands isn’t as bad as putting them up – it only takes half the time, Richardson said.Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 748-2928 or email@example.com.
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