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Old Colorado City light displays add cheer to Christmas season

Bon Ton's seasonal display lights up the night. This photo of the cafe, at the southwest corner of Colorado Avenue and 26th Street, was shot recently from the southeast corner.
Westside Pioneer photo
Every year the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) lights up the big spruce tree in the Old Town Plaza at 25th and Colorado. This year, the number of tree lights was doubled, but (as seen from the plaza parking lot) some of the vertical white-light strands aren't working. The OCCA hopes to get Colorado Springs Utilities volunteers back to fix the problem, but it's hard to fit in with their schedule.
Westside Pioneer photo
       Christmas in Old Colorado City has been a well-lit affair this year.
       This includes numerous individual businesses, among which Bon Ton's Cafe at 26th and Colorado has continued its status - established over the past 20 years - of being particularly impressive.
       Bon Ton's owner Catherine Barbo couldn't say how many actual bulbs have been shining outside her establishment since around Thanksgiving, but it's easily in the thousands. She and her staff need five days to put everything up, she said.
       Barbo leaves the lights on all night long, even though her restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch. “It draws attention to Bon Ton's, if people want to come back for breakfast,” she laughed. But in general, she just likes the idea of lights this time of year. “It's cheerful when it's so dark out,” she said. “And all the compliments we get, that really does make me happy.”
       The Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) business group - which represents many of the enterprises around Colorado Avenue between 24th and 27th streets - takes charge of the Christmas lighting in the historic district's public areas.
       This season that has included placing “twice as many lights” as in previous years on the large spruce tree in the Old Town Plaza at 25th and Colorado, according to Dave Van Ness, OCCA executive director. In addition, the organization has added white LED strands on some streetlight poles this year. Others still have multicolored LED sets, which were wrapped around the poles previously. The newer ones are brighter, he pointed out.
       But Van Ness offered that the OCCA is not fully pleased with the way the tree looks. About half of the vertical white-light strands are non-functional. Unfortunately, the fix isn't easy. A bucket truck would be needed to go that high, and the only entity that will do such work without a fee is Colorado Springs Utilities, through its employees' annual holiday-lighting volunteer program.
       Utilities volunteers had put up the OCC tree lights in the first place. It's not known how some strands malfunctioned, although it could have happened if someone yanked on them, Van Ness said. “We're just grateful to have them [Utilities] come out and do it,” he commented, but getting the enterprise's volunteers with their equipment to come back is not easy because “they're scheduled so far out.”
       At Bancroft Park, the OCCA had expanded its seasonal lighting this year, but criminals thwarted that plan. The Garvin Cabin was lit up as usual, with the park pavilion added for the first time. But the pavilion lights had scarcely been turned on (the Friday before Thanksgiving) when someone stole the extension cord. “Literally, 10 minutes and it was gone,” Van Ness said.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 12/17/14; Business: Changes)

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