Wake-Up Call: LoDo gets lit!

Every December, my parents would pack the family into the station wagon and head to downtown Chicago, where we'd look at the displays in the department-store windows and all the Christmas lights that glowed brighter than the tail-lights in the traffic jam around us.

Downtown department stores have gone the way of those gas-guzzling wagons, but LoDo has unwrapped a new holiday-lights tradition with LoDo Aglow: Scenes of the Season, a window-design contest that will stay up through the Stock Show, like the display at the Denver City & County Building. And unlike that exhibition, many of the 27 businesses participating in LoDo Aglow show a surprising amount of taste.

I was one of the contest's judges, a task not made easy by last week's cold snap -- because these windows deserve more than a drive-by viewing. In fact, they deserve both day-time and night-time scrutiny. Although lighting was a contest requirement, so you want to see these displays at night (don't drink and drive by the LoDo Grill's flashing spectacle!), many of the details can really only be seen by day.

Special points to the city silhouette in the window of sponsor Great Western Bank, 1543 Wazee Street; the over-the-top extravaganza of the Oxford Hotel, 1600 17th Street; the "green Christmas" theme at Organixx, 1520 Blake Street; and the cowboy Christmas at Rockmount Ranchwear, 1626 Wazee Street, which tapped into the true spirit of the season by making my fingers itch for my charge card. And to Dixons, which wrapped its fourteen windows like packages -- and labeled two of the gifts for the judges.

The Lodo district will announce the winners of LoDo Aglow this week, and it's offering walking tours of the displays -- although you can easily maneuver the route on your own. For more information, including a map with the locations of all 27 windows, go to www.lodo.org.

Let there be lights.

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