Barbara Lawlor, Central City. You could hear them before you could see them. The high-pitched squeals of excitement, of freedom during a school day. Every now and then an older voice would warn the stream of students to slow down, stick together.
On Thursday afternoon, Gilpin Elementary school students marched down the hill from the Teller House in Central City to Main Street where they walked out from shadow of the buildings into bright sunshine.
Father Christmas, a new one this season because the former bearded person had knee surgery, led the march of the children, his gold staff gleaming in the light. Most of the kids knew what to do when they reached the tree.
Each of the students had made an ornament which they carefully carried to the site of the waiting Christmas tree at the intersection. City employees were nearby waiting to assist the children reach the branch they thought perfect for their creation.
“Eeeeew, I want that one,” cried on girl, pointing to an empty branch about four feet higher than her head. One of the workers hoisted her up to her perfect place and she gently placed the snowflake on the branch.
The upper branches already had ornaments on the higher part of the tree, so the kids had only to fill the first five feet or so of empty places.
The line of tree decorators included 240 children who were happy to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Tommyknockers, an annual crafts market set up in the lusciously furnished historic Teller House. Reluctantly the children trudged back up the hill to the Teller House where the whole bunch of students crowded into the main room of the Teller House to hear a story told by Diane Whitman of Idaho Springs.
She enthusiastically read the 365 Days of Christmas, a tale of what happens when a child sends Santa a letter with a wish to have Christmas every day. Her wish comes true. The same dinner over and over again. The same carols blasted over the radio hour after after. Gifts piling up unopened. On the Fourth of July, people don’t sing “The Star-Bangled Banner,” they sing “Jingle Bells.”
Nobody was thankful at Thanksgiving. Everybody had become greedy and selfish and everyone was going bankrupt from buying Christmas presents presents every day. At the end of the year, everyone got together and begged to have Christmas for just one day of the year. Be careful of what you wish for, ended Whitman’s story. The Gilpin School Children’s Choir sang a few traditional carols and then it was time for the kids to go back to school.
On their way out of the heavy door of the Teller House, they were handed a bag of treats and a few small gifts. They clambered back onto the schoolhouses that had transported them there and their work was done.
Main Street Central City has worked diligently for the past few years to keep this event and other holiday activities alive and well, carrying on the traditions first begun when miners founded the historic small town in Gilpin County.
The decorating of the town tree in the first week of December made a whole bunch of memories for the Gilpin students.
(Originally published in the December 7, 2017 print edition of The Mountain-Ear.)