Saturday, November 30, 2002
Steamboat Springs The Hayden Tree Lighting Ceremony was part holiday celebration and part memorial Saturday night.
In its second year, the event drew close to 100 people as the town lit up its beloved Christmas tree. But it also was a chance for those to remember the man that started the tree-lighting tradition at Fourth Street and Jefferson Avenue.
David Spencer, who started decorating the 70-foot spruce tree in his front yard more than 10 years ago, died this September at the age of 83.
"This is a good remembrance for him," his brother Keith Spencer said.
During the tree-lighting ceremony, Mayor Chuck Grobe paid tribute to David Spencer and his wife, Neveille, who still lives in the house at Fourth and Jefferson. The celebration included the Hayden High School band, refreshments and even a visit from Santa.
Although the cost of lighting the tree was pricey and it took getting the lights ready in early November before the snow came, Keith Spencer said David Spencer took pride in the tree and enjoyed last year's celebration.
"This was his donation to the town of Hayden," he said.
David Spencer, a retired electrician, first decorated the tree in 1981 with the help of two other electricians.
For the first time last year, the town took over decorating the tree and the holiday celebration was created with it.
It took the town 13 hours to take down the old lights and restring the tree for its first year. Last year, David Spencer watched from a lawn chair as the men decorated the tree.
This year, it took just three people to replace the worn-out strings. Grobe said the town had aimed to light the tree with 1,000 lights, but the 900 lights that are on the tree now seem to fit perfectly.
Both this year and in 2001, the town had the help of Wagner Rents, which loaned a boomlift to reach the highest part of the tree, which is said to grow a foot a year.
The Spencers did not always have the luxury of a boomlift. In the Spencers' first year of decorating the tree, Keith Spencer said his son Ron tried to climb up the tree to decorate the top, but the branches were too thick.
So the group of electricians used poles to string the tree and eventually they used a truck equipped with a bucket. Neveille Spencer said on particularly wet falls, the truck got stuck in the Spencers' front lawn a few times.
But it was worth the effort.
The tree along Hayden's main street and U.S. Highway 40 has caused drivers to slow down and airplane pilots have even pointed out the tree to passengers as planes land at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.
Julie Redmond and Carol Burman, who live across the street from the Spencers and brought their sons to the celebration, love having the tree as their neighbor.
"This is special," Redmond said. She noted during the holiday season, it is never hard to give directions to her house that sits diagonally across from the tree.
David Spencer's relatives were also among those who watched the tree-lighting ceremony. And one even speculated that David Spencer was up in heaven watching the celebration and smiling down on all the kids Saturday night.