Next to Santa's workshop, could any place on earth be more magical to a kid at Christmas time than the Hammond's Candies factory? Located right here in Denver since Carl T. Hammond Sr. set up shop in 1920, Hammond's is especially known (and nationally, at that) for its hand-pulled, small-batch, striped ribbon candies, lollipops and candy canes, all created through a unique alchemy of sugar, corn syrup and controlled heat that's an art form all its own. No greater magic's ever been pulled off by any perky little elf at the North Pole.
Candy, after all, is an airtight business, notes spokesman Eric Lane. "There are three things in the world, no matter what the economy does, that are always safe," he says. "Candy, alcohol and cigarettes. When times are rough, you drink, you smoke, and you eat chocolate. And when things are good? You drink, you smoke, and you eat chocolate."
But an open-door policy doesn't hurt, either, and Hammond's follows through all year long with its popular factory tours. And at Christmas? In the old-fashioned spirit of the holiday, Hammond's throws its annual Candy Cane Festival, replete with Santa and his live reindeer, horse-drawn rides, ice sculpting, handblown-candy art demonstrations and a gingerbread-house contest.
Guide your sled to the fest at 5735 North Washington Street today between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Admission is free; call 303-333-5588 or visit www.hammondscandies.com. -- Susan Froyd
Let There Be Lights
Wildlights, the holiday tradition at the Denver Zoo that bathes 35 acres in colors and illuminated shapes, begins tonight: Other festive flourishes include carolers, instrumental groups and dancers. Guests are welcome to warm up at various stations offering roasted chestnuts, hot chocolate, cider, soft bread pretzels and steamy cappuccino for sale.
Wildlights runs nightly through January 2 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at 2300 Steele Street. Admission is $7 for adults, $4 for children under twelve, and $6 for senior citizens. For information, call 303-376-4800 or visit www.denverzoo.org. -- Richard Kellerhals
Celebrate Denver! comes to the exclamation point
It's not as if the new, improved Colorado Convention Center hasn't already made its presence known to every average Joe in Denver: You can't drive down Speer Boulevard without noticing (and possibly fearing) its adventurous prow. And now, since the installation of Bernar Venet's monumental steel spiral on the lawn, it blares, "We've arrived!" to every passerby. It's our very own Battleship Denver -- the new face of the Mile High City, reporting for duty. But we simple constituents have not yet been formally introduced.
Until now. Join the city for Celebrate Denver!, a jolly, free welcome tonight from 5 to 11 p.m., and get a gander at the magnificent innards behind the building's brazen facade. First up will be Broncos cheerleaders and Rockettes greeting the public with a gauntlet of gams, along with live music, art exhibits and demonstrations, and a youth poster-contest display filling the facility's hangar-sized lobbies and ballrooms. Keep in mind that it takes a lot of stuff to fill 600,00 square feet of exhibit space. Some of it will be occupied by public art, including Jim Green's ticklish "Laughing Escalator." Now, that should make for a happy ride.
Call 303-228-8000 or visit www.celebratedenver.com. -- Susan Froyd
The DAM celebrates Our Lady of Guadalupe
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The image is on prepaid telephone cards, bumperstickers and logos.
No doubt about it: Pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe are commonly found in everyday society, particularly in the Mexican community. The apparition of Mary to an Aztec in 1531 symbolizes a key part of New World history and religion. Mexican nationalism, native Indian ritual and Mexican Catholicism have all claimed part of this heritage.
So it's not surprising that the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, is marking her feast today, in an exhibit that continues through January 2. To make things especially accessible, those wishing to visit the gallery's fourth floor, which showcases five depictions of the virgin, can get special vouchers for free museum admission. The passes are available at libraries and churches and by calling the DAM at 720-913-0113 or visiting www.denverartmuseum.org.
Once in the museum, families will also be able to take part in cultural activities that represent centuries-old tradition, including the belief that the Lady of Guadalupe helped end a plague in Mexico. On weekends and during school vacation, visitors can try the new Southwest Santos family backpack, play a special game of Rhymes & Riddles or put together an Our Lady of Guadalupe magnet puzzle. -- Ernie Tucker