Community spirit, lights shine

Donations, loans, volunteers brighten Oak Creek for the holiday season

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For Alice Kauffman, a highlight of Oak Creek's holiday decorations used to be the town's big Christmas Tree.

Years ago, it sat in the middle of the town's Main Street, or Colorado Highway 131.

"I remember seeing that as a kid," she said, adding that oranges were handed out next to the tree to the town's children.

The tree was then moved to an empty lot because it didn't mix well with the traffic, and finally, it was abandoned altogether.

This year, a drive through Oak Creek at night offers views of small, lit stars and ribbons on every lamppost, with garlands running up every other lamppost, as well.

There are wreaths on buildings, with red, white and blue lights on bushes at Pocket Park, and lights climbing up several trees.

Also at the park is a large, inflatable Santa Claus that has been borrowed from Mayor Cargo Rodeman.

The decorations, though not as flashy as the town hopes to have next winter, mark efforts by town employees as well as a core group of volunteers, including Kauffman and her husband, Bud.

"It's a community project this year, which it should be," Kauffman said. "We did the best we could do with the cents that we had."

In years past, the town has put at least a dozen lamppost decorations, town officials said. But this year, when volunteers looked through boxes that had been stored at the Old Town Hall and then at other locations, they found just six or seven.

Nobody seems to know whether the others were moved or thrown out, a possibility as the lights are about a decade old.

The lack of supplies for decorating meant Kauffman and others had to scramble to find some to buy, for which the town reimbursed them.

John Maynarich, who was the town merchant for 37 years at the Oak Creek Grocery, has devoted a good deal of time to helping with decorations for the past few years. Friends and co-volunteers are quick to say that Maynarich is a crucial part of the town's decorating process.

"He's the one that got the thing going," said Bob Johnson, a friend of Maynarich's. "He has lived here a long time. He has a lot of pride in this town."

Maynarich said he got involved about five years ago when the town didn't put up decorations at Pocket Park, which is across the street from the town's gas station.

"I said the Pocket Park should be decorated, and they all said they didn't have time," Maynarich said. "I said, 'I'll do it.'

"It's something I kind of enjoy. It makes Christmas a little better."

Since then, Maynarich has helped collect funds to buy garland, lights and other decorations and has dressed up trees and bushes along with the help of other volunteers.

Maynarich has long put up lights around his own house. When he worked at Oak Creek Grocery, he put up lights and played Christmas Carols on speakers that carried the music outside to downtown Oak Creek.

Another important part of getting the town's decorations up is Public Works Director Jim Photos and his crews, who put decorations up along the town's main street.

This year's decorations are good, he said, but next year should be better.

The town has budgeted money to spend on lights and other decorations, with hopes of getting one or two large banner lights to span the road.

The volunteers who have helped with decorating enjoy helping and also have community pride, Photos said.

"They're proud of the town and they want to make it look good," he said.

"The town does as much as we can, and we appreciate the volunteers that help out. They do a great job."

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