Reader: Nothing Says Merry Christmas Like a Fenced-Off Park

Civic Center Park was closed in April.EXPAND
Civic Center Park was closed in April.
Thomas Mitchell
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Almost a century ago, Denver briefly bore the title "Christmas Capital of the World." The city earned that reputation after a pioneering electrician popularized outdoor holiday lights in 1914, when he cheered up a child too sick to join his family around the Christmas tree — but able to see an illuminated pine outside of his window.

Although there had been a few earlier outdoor decorating attempts around the country, they dimmed compared to the glowing reports provided by Denver Post reporter Pinky Wayne regarding this early effort by D.D. Sturgeon, dubbed the "Father of Yule Lighting." By 1919, the official city electrician, John Malpiede, had caught the fever and replaced the lights in Denver Civic Center with colored globes of red and green for the holidays; soon he illuminated the front of the building that then served as City Hall.

That practice continues today at the 85-year-old Denver City and County Building, as does the city's tradition of keeping lights on through the National Western Stock Show...even with the Stock Show canceled in January 2021.

The City and County Building will stay lit through January, just as it did in 2019.EXPAND
The City and County Building will stay lit through January, just as it did in 2019.
Downtown Partnership

But many readers were in the dark about this city's bright history, judging from the comments posted on the Westword Facebook page with our story, "Denver's Glowing Reputation as 'Christmas Capital of the World.'" Says Michael:

This is a joke, right? Have you ever left the state?

Adds James:  

I said the same thing. They should drive through anyplace in mid-New England or any part of north suburban Chicago. Hell, most of Ohio plays a strong Xmas game, too.

Suggests Brian:

Perhaps the folks declaring this should visit Bethlehem, Pennsylvania: The Christmas City.

Replies Laura: 

As someone from the Lehigh Valley, I can confirm Denver doesn’t have anything on Bethlehem when it comes to Christmas.

Comments Matt:

What? My first year in Denver I remember seeing all the pretty lights and shiz. Then turned my head and saw ton of homeless people in front of the capital in <20 degrees. Oh yes, merry and bright.

That was then. Now, Sophie notes:

Nothing says Merry Christmas like fencing off the park across the street so homeless folks can't rest. Responds Nina:

 I love everything about this Christmas light story, including the crazy comments. Great Denver story.

And Jonathan concludes:

Stop advertising Denver, because everyone will move here and Denver will be ruined. Seriously. stop!

Had you heard the story about Denver's history as the home of outdoor Christmas lights? What do you think about the current display at City Hall? The closed parks across the street? Post a comment or email editorial@westword.com.

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