Steamboat Springs Cindy Wright said this year is the 70th that the Roving Christmas Tree will visit Routt County homes.
The annual tradition, which was started by her grandfather Walt Webber, began Christmas Eve 1938 in Steamboat Springs. The electrician drove his panel truck outfitted with loudspeakers that played carols and four lit Christmas trees, handing out popcorn balls, taffy and fudge to children.
But it stopped for a couple of years during World War II, when rationing prevented Webber’s wife, Gertrude, from making the sweet treats for Steamboat children.
This year, the Roving Christmas Tree will start at 5 p.m. today from the Haven Community Center in Hayden, where the tradition moved about 25 years ago.
The Webbers continued roving until the 1970s, when they passed tree duties on to the Steamboat Springs Lions Club, which expanded it to include Hayden and Oak Creek until the mid-1980s. Several organizations have handled it in Hayden in the years since.
The last group, the Hayden 4-H club, relinquished the responsibility back to the Webber family in 2005. Since then, Walt and Gertrude’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have organized the Roving Christmas Tree in Hayden. Those who want to meet the tree should leave their porch lights on and listen for the music. Those who live on dead-end streets without a cul-de-sac are encouraged to come to the end of the street.
Wright said little has changed in the 72 years since the first Roving Christmas Tree. Her family no longer makes homemade candy to hand out, and she said there now are two roving Christmas trees, in order to quickly reach every home in Hayden.
But for the most part, Wright said, the tradition is the same.
It’s the same family — now in the fifth generation of participants — that pays for everything and doesn’t seek donations. It is in the spirit of the way her grandfather did it, Wright said.
“It’s still basically just giving to the community,” she said. “It’s a thank you to the community.”