I’m wondering at what point one can cite the “old days” with any authority.
This is my 20th holiday season since moving to Leadville, so I think I’ll give it a shot.
Many traditions have come and gone over the years. Remember when Leadville placed a huge Christmas tree in the middle of Harrison Avenue across from the courthouse? I only know of this because of the historic 1922 photo that we frequently run in the Herald. It wasn’t a long-standing tradition, because, as the Herald noted, drunk or inattentive drivers would frequently knock it down.
I do recall fondly the Chamber of Commerce holiday parties held at Community Bank each year. I miss the chance to get together and wish everyone a happy holiday. I also miss the food, which was always outstanding, and the boxed wine, which was, well, boxed wine. It’s now been two years since we’ve had this party. Will it ever return?
Remember the Victorian Home Tour? Also sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, I think it took place four times since I’ve been here. About eight houses, and sometimes businesses, were selected for the tours, and all were lavishly decorated for the holidays by their owners. Sumptuous homemade desserts were served at each home, and locals in Victorian attire shared stories of each house and provided tours. Some homes even featured live music.
The Herald Democrat’s infamous basement with the old printing press was on the tour twice during that time, and we all enjoyed being part of the fun.
A couple things proved problematic with the Victorian Home Tour: It took place in December, and it depended on visitors from the Front Range to make a profit. Yet Leadville’s unpredictable winter weather often kept people at home. There has been talk of having this event other times of year, but those have gone nowhere. At least not yet.
When I first began editing the Herald, I invited all the clergy in town to submit letters for the holiday issue with messages for the community.
I admit I did this partly out of guilt. The previous editor had started a weekly column in the paper with the clergy taking turns providing their thoughts. I quickly learned that most clergy are as bad at meeting deadlines as everyone else. And while some were great writers, others were not. So I killed the clergy column. After a few years I also did away with the Christmas letters, although a few of them were outstanding. No one noticed or complained, and I no longer had to nag anyone for this content. None of those early clergy people remain in Leadville, so I feel safe in mentioning this.
Did you attend the Parade of Lights on Dec. 3? My first years in Leadville there were no such parades, but since they got their start, these are some of the best parades this community puts on (and you all know that we don’t stint on parades around here).
I think that the Parade of Lights started in 2011, based on a quick look at the Herald archives. One of the most memorable years was 2012, though, when the snow started falling and huge flakes covered the avenue as the parade made its way down the street. We were waiting for snow that year, like this one, and the snowfall lent the perfect touch to the parade. One of those Hallmark moments.
There was no snow at the recent parade on the 3rd and unseasonably warm weather for December until then, yet it was clear that people enjoyed this return to normalcy after last year’s COVID-19 holiday season.
But as I stood downtown on Dec. 3, I had one of those deja vu moments, and I suspect that people who were living here in 2006 might have been experiencing the same thing.
Many Leadvillians crowded the space in front of the courthouse on a late December night in 2006, but the atmosphere was not festive. We were waiting for Nick Palmer to return home. Nick, a Marine, had been killed Dec. 16, 2006 in Iraq. His body had been returned to the Denver airport that evening and then was being driven to Leadville.
It was very quiet as I recall. People comforted one another with hugs, and many tears fell that night. I attended with my reporter, Ann Wibbenmeyer, and I can guarantee that this evening also remains in Ann’s memory.
I remember the sense of community as Leadvillians united in their grief on that cold December night. This wasn’t the last time that Leadville has shown what its people are made of. Despite the tragic circumstances of that night, it is a memory that I treasure. I hope others have similar moments here that they carry in their hearts.
Martinek can be reached at 719-293-0363 or firstname.lastname@example.org.