The Rulon Kelly Team sat down with Kara Gilbert, Charla Belinski and Julie Ressler of the Snowmass Chapel to find out how the "Light the Night" event all began. Due to COVID-19, there was no way the event could have happened as it usually does. But, that did not stop Kara and her team from putting on a phenomenal virtual event. We interviewed the Snowmass Chapel team to see how this year was different and why this is such a special celebration for the town of Snowmass Village!
How has this pandemic effected the Light Up the Night event?
The lights must go on! :) If ever there was a year when people needed something bright to smile about, it's 2020. The event has always been a wonderful community gathering of several hundred people, coming together to kick off winter. Gathering in person wasn't an option this year, but we applied the same event timeline (carols, a countdown, and visits with Santa) to a virtual event offering with the hopes of spreading a little holiday cheer. It seems like sponsors were more excited to partner this year than ever too, looking for ways to spread happy.
How has the pandemic made the event better?
I think people have come to appreciate community even more now... the old saying, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. I also think people notice beauty and joy in the little things now more than last year, and have more gratitude and appreciation for those small things. The visitors we've had to the property each night just in the last week shows that people are looking for things to get out and do. It seems like people are getting back to inexpensive good old fashioned fun (which makes my heart so happy!)
How long has the Light Up the Night event been going on? This is the 8th year. We saw tree lighting events in so many other surrounding communities and thought, what about Snowmass?!
What have you learned over the years to make the event engaging for the kids?
Sugar!! Haha. Cocoa, cookies, and of course, an opportunity to visit with the big guy in red. Kids also love the blow up scenes we put out for the night of the event.
What is your favorite part about putting on this event?
When people are on the property and the lights come on, there's a sense of wonder, joy, awe and magic all around! The Christmas Spirit becomes palpable with all those spirits in sync together. It's such a fun kickoff to the holidays, with mostly just the locals before we welcome so many others to our community. It's a fun way to acknowledge not only the approaching holidays, but also that the hustle and bustle of the winter in Aspen / Snowmass is ready to begin!
How does the Snowmass Village community helped in putting this event on?
The community shows up! This year 16 sponsors helped pay for the light maintenance, which is really expensive. We are so grateful to sponsors like the Rulon Kelly Team, who has donated year after year, to help us make the lights possible. This year many families also either submitted emails to Santa to be read on the broadcast (and kids were also surprised to get an email reply back) or participated in a little video reading rendition of The Night Before Christmas poem. Also this year, Anderson Ranch contacted us and is possibly looking to start participating in years to come. They have a knock-your-socks off new tree that apparently is controlled by visitors via an app on their phones. This is 100% a community event, and it feels good as a Chapel to be able to help oversee that.
What are your roles in putting on the event (Kara/Julie) or who is the mastermind behind it all?
"Kara Gilbert is the mastermind!", Rev. Charla Belinski shares. Charla said 9 years ago in a staff meeting, she mentioned that they should light "a tree" on the Chapel grounds. Kara came back a week later with a vision and the energy to make it happen. It has grown every year since then and she almost single-handedly does it because she absolutely loves it! While putting on the evening is a group effort, it is 100% Kara Gilbert who creates all this fun and magic of the season with the lights at the Snowmass Chapel.
It's always such a team effort, and the event and light displays have grown over the years. The vision is much bigger, for an entire Christmas attraction / village that will draw visitors from all over... little by little.
Fun facts about Light Up the Night event that the general public wouldn't know.
Over the last 8 years it has grown from 15 trees lit to 40 trees plus other displays! There's a vision for the property full of whimsy and wonder that is taking shape, but is not at all complete - we're still dreaming!
The Rulon Kelly Team is proud to sponsor this event year after year! If you'd like to donate for next year's event, please visit the Snowmass Chapel's website: https://snowmasschapel.org/