There's something magical about the holiday season in Estes Park and it's been that way ever since I can remember. I recall being enthralled with Santa riding across the sky -- presumably toward my home more than 100 miles east of the village. I just knew that Rudolph was leading the way to our ranch when I dreamed of Christmas while waiting for my older siblings to return from school.
It was later in my childhood when I realized Santa was a billboard mural designed and built just for the season. All the murals were created between 1958 and 1966. All are individually lit and provide a special addition to the ambiance of the holiday season. They even erected a depiction of the Old Woman in the Shoe with all those children crawling in and out of windows. One mural helped my understand the meaning of Christmas with the Three Wise Men and the sheep standing on the hillside as they pointed toward a lighted star. They've all been refurbished now, but their presence evokes the essence of a simpler time.
Over the years, the village has become more magical. Even with my childhood fantasies erased, a new magic replaces my visions. Thousands and thousands of tiny white lights adorn all the trees throughout the downtown area. Leading into the village are 120 colorful trees hanging from streetlamp poles.Last weekend about 300 people kicked off the season with an old-fashioned tree lighting ceremony in Bond Park. By Monday night all those twinkling lights called out to me.
And now there's a nighttime lighted parade that's become an essential element of the tradition that calls out to thousands of people. It started in the late 1980s and is held the day after Thanksgiving. The first three years, the parade was billed as "Santa's Storybook Parade" and featured all walking characters. Today there are 40 floats, as couple of bands and a few other marching units. All the groups are decorated with lights.As an adult, I cannot imagine a Christmas without the parade or a place where I've enjoyed the holidays more. Christmas in Estes Park is my tradition.And I still love seeing Santa fly across the sky.