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Vail’s Ford touchstone

Don Rogers

This year’s event has added significance, this being the 40th anniversary and all.

“Jerry’s tree” by the Covered Bridge is scheduled for its moment at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Previous years included a tree-lighting in Lionshead, as well, but this year’s ceremony will take place only at the Covered Bridge.

We’d like there to be 29 more President Ford tree-lightings, of course, but time’s cycles suggest he’ll retire from this duty sometime sooner than that. Eventually, the moment will become a treasured memory of the old Vail. Best seal it now by putting it on your calendar, if you have missed these. There’s a poignancy in the ceremony itself, and a bit more with the history unfolding this year.



New traditions will take root as the next 40 years elapse, and new legends will come to be. The villages will be renovated and rejuvenated soon. That conference center, so long in the wings, will be built. Assuming the wealthy neighbors up the hill can resist one last desperate stab at killing Middle Creek in the courtroom, Vail will finally make some genuine progress with affordable housing.

Donovan Pavilion will come into being, and we’ll all see whether it’s the boondoggle critics decry or yet another Ford Amphitheater – much maligned in the beginning and heavily praised in the end. Vail is funny that way.



This is a great time to look back and ahead, to take stock, poised here between eras. It’s only fitting that the early start on the ski season so far has been positively epic, and the snow is coming again just in time for Christmas and New Year’s. Global warming hasn’t quite yet stopped Vail from being Vail.

If we may be so bold as to look forward a season to those historically weaker summers, let’s note that the kings of classical music, the New York Philharmonic is coming to join the Bravo! festival. One of the elite theater companies, Steppenwolf, has begun making summer stops here. The county has taken the lead in enticing more summer flights into Eagle County Regional Airport, which will pay dividends for summer tourism.

The Lake Tahoe region, another ski mecca, attracts more visitors during summers. The Vail Valley can do the same, given our spectacular warm season and growth in activities and attractions.



Yes, but what about the other consequences of such ascension? Growth has been rapid, particularly in the 1990s, and the pace is bound to pick up bigtime before this decade wears much longer.

There are some signs of the encroaching suburbia here – big box stores, for God’s sake. But also valuable assets such as the Shaw Cancer Center. Pockets of civilization are not all bad.

The future here, like the present and the past, is challenging but bright. Don’t let the naysayers fool you.

And the spirit of Ford, as you’ll hear again when he speaks before turning those Christmas lights on, is decidedly can-do and forward-looking. That’s a tradition we’d all do well to carry into the future.

D.R.


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