St. Nicholas visits Citizens Park

Children, visitors relish Idaho Springs’ annual tree lighting


The children were not nestled all snug in their beds, but visions of sugar plums — or some equivalent candy — were likely dancing in their heads while visiting downtown Idaho Springs Saturday, Nov. 27.

The city kicked off the winter holiday season with its annual tree lighting in Citizens Park, hosted by the Idaho Springs Marketing Alliance.

Santa Claus and reindeers Donner and Blitzen were in attendance. The Clear Creek High School Madrigal ensemble sang an assortment of Christmas carols, and Mayor Mike Hillman read “A Visit From St. Nicholas” — often called “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

The dozens of attendees then counted down from 10, and one of the children in the crowd helped Hillman flip the switch for lights decorating the tallest tree in the park.

Stephanie Bryant of Syracuse, Nebraska said the holiday spirit was tangible on Miner Street Saturday night, and it was something she and her children will never forget. She said it felt like something out of a Hallmark Christmas movie.

“We’ll definitely come back (to Idaho Springs),” Bryant said. “ ... It was like we found this little gem in the mountains.”

Bryant’s children, Cora, 9, and John, 11, described how they were visiting Bryant’s college friends in Johnstown, Colorado, and drove into Idaho Springs for the day. They visited the Argo Gold Mill and tried to get into the packed Indian Hot Springs. Along the way, they heard about the tree lighting and decided to stick around.

Cora and John said they enjoyed seeing the reindeer and talking to Santa Claus.

Their mom described how John has food allergies and wasn’t able to have the free cocoa the ISMA had for attendees; but local shop-owners went out of their way to get him a type of cocoa he could enjoy. Bryant said she greatly appreciated that, and everyone in general was very welcoming.

“It was a wonderful evening we’ll remember forever,” she continued.

Saturday also marked an important occasion for Maeve, 4, and Tiernan, 6. It was their first time meeting Santa Claus, mom Sophia Flynn explained. They haven’t met him before because of COVID-19 precautions.

The Flynns, who live in Lawrence, Kansas, were in the area visiting family for Thanksgiving and saw the fliers for the city’s tree lighting. While they enjoyed seeing the reindeer and the carolers, Santa Claus was the highlight of the evening.

Maeve said she asked for a Minnie Mouse market stand and Tiernan said he wanted Batman toys.

Their father, Liam appreciated how easygoing “Santa” James Nowakowski was, saying that Maeve was very shy at first but Nowakowski helped her feel at ease.

After Hillman read the poem, Nowakowski addressed those present, saying it’s always a joy to visit the mountains. He had enjoyed talking to the children and hearing what they wanted for Christmas, he said, and thanked Idaho Springs for the invitation.

He wished everyone a merry Christmas and a very happy New Year.

Contact reporter Corinne Westeman at, and follow her on Twitter @cwesteman.

Christmas, santa


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