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The real Christmas tree story

Dear Editor:

What would a holiday be in Aspen without a stick-in-the-eye from a letters contributor? As the former owners of the Sardy House, Daniel Delano and I can thank Shellie Roy that our Christmas is now complete.

Ms. Roy may just have been unbelievably clumsy in her attempt to compliment John Devaney, the owner of the Sardy House since 2007, on the way he has decorated the tree with new lights. He should be complimented, and Ms. Roy should have taken the trouble to learn his name. She could have used it in her letter, instead of referring to him as “an equity fund guy from Florida.”

But for some reason Ms. Roy had to also take a gratuitous swipe at us. To quote her letter “The ‘Lighting of the Sardy House Tree’ had been an Aspen tradition for decades. But the landmark faded into a ‘Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree’ when a long-time local converted the old home into a hotel.”

Ms. Roy could only have been referring to Tom Sardy, who owned the house before us, and Daniel and I who converted it into a hotel in 1985.

Tom Sardy had in fact decorated the blue spruce in the front yard at Christmas time. But in 1973, because of the tree’s size and the energy crisis stemming from the Arab oil embargo, he had given up the tradition.

It was Daniel’s idea to light the tree again, and in the middle of a huge construction project, with a looming tax credit deadline, we added that to the work list. Our electrician installed an 18,000-watt service to the tree. Our laborers made up the strings with lights, wire, and heat-shrink tubes. Daniel and I took turns climbing the 80-foot-tall tree or dangling in a concrete bucket from DeRoecks crane. The transformers got lost in the Christmas mail and Cap’s Auto Supply lent us RV batteries to take their place. The mayor stood on a milk crate in the front yard and gave the first speech, and our young children threw the switch.

For the next 22 years we lit the tree every Christmas.

We brought in choral groups from the schools and talented locals to sing. Every year we baked over 2,000 cookies for the event in the hotel kitchen. We added lights and a sound system for the performers. We had Santa and his wife appear for the kids, and for several years had real live caribou in the front yard. Our staff stood in the cold with Motorola radios, organizing the flow of kids to see Santa, working the levels on the PA, giving out cookies, and cleaning up the mess afterward. And we never took a dime from anyone.

Charlie Brown’s tree may not have been snazzy, but it was full of heart. We would recommend to Ms. Roy that she resolve in the New Year to get her facts straight, and refrain from measuring a community event like this by its wattage.

Frank Peters

Aspen


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