Arts and Culture

To Lonnie Hanzon, the King of Hudson Gardens: An open love letter

Word's come down that the annual Hudson Holiday lighting extravaganza, designed by Lonnie Hanzon and bankrolled by the Museum of Outdoor Arts, is no more -- and I'm telling you, I am crushed. That's because I'm not only a holiday light-show junkie, but also a lover of the arts, and Lonnie's magically personal way with lighting forever meshed my two enthusiasms more tightly than a suit of chain-mail armor. The sad story is one we've heard before: Twinkling stuff and nonsense requires dollars, more dollars than Hudson Holiday apparently pulled in over its run of a couple years. And even MOA's Cynthia Madden Leitner, the most dedicated of arts patrons, has her limits. Here's what she said in her press release: "This was a bright vision and a brilliant celebration of the museum's devotion to accessible public art. We enlightened a lot of people about more energy-efficient outdoor lighting options, and we lightened a lot of hearts with this non-denominational show. MOA and Hudson Gardens agreed to cancel this year's presentation rather than compromise the high production standard, family value and artistic level we established with our presentation the last two years." Sigh. Lonnie -- who's been a resident wizard, a public artist (his "Evolution of the Ball" arch is one of the few high points left for visitors to Coors Field), a genius float-builder (a stint with the Parade of Lights), magic lantern enthusiast, collector of whimsies and the mastermind behind Hudson Holiday -- would begin spinning his Rumpelstiltskin quilt of attractions both traditional and high-tech at the gardens early in the fall, posting pictures as things took shape. I'm going to miss that sense of building excitement he exuded during the process, not to mention the finished product. Lonnie says of it all (to quote A Chorus Line), "I won't regret what I did for love. It was a wonderful thing to do, and I'm thrilled it touched so many hearts and grew so fast. I hope the spirit of it finds a home someplace else." Me, too. Without meaning to be facetious, I do so confidently call Lonnie Denver's faerie king -- always flittering a little above the crowd, he's the guy in the fairy kingdom who makes the sugarplums dance and all our dreams come true.

So hear me, Lonnie: It ain't over till it's over. Please continue to delight us. Work your wonders in downtown store windows or wherever you can. We know you'll pull through, rise like a Phoenix from the ashes, powered by your own imagination and ingenuity, to delight us all over again.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd