For the past 15 years the Holiday Park Sisterhood has organized and supervised the placement of Christmas trees in Riverside Park to create Holiday Park.
The prelit trees are adopted and decorated in honor of loved ones, by local businesses and nonprofits and by families. They have become part of the fabric of holiday celebrations in downtown Salida.
After this holiday season, the sisterhood is looking for another group of volunteers to take over the project as they disband.
“It has just gotten too big for the six or seven people who put it together. We have gone from 60 trees to over 90 trees in just the last few years,” sisterhood member Vickie Sue Vigil said.
“I am amazed at the amount of the growth of the memorial and family trees each year,” she said.
Holiday Park has been a tradition in Salida since the late 1980s when Sandy Lyles and her sister, Dee Maltby, started the park in memory of their mother at Salida SteamPlant.
When more electricity was needed, Salida Business Alliance helped pay for two electrical panels.
When the SteamPlant planned an expansion of its plaza, the holiday display moved to Riverside Park with support from the city.
At that point a group of private citizens took over so the tradition could continue.
In recent years the sisterhood welcomed the addition of a large menorah to Holiday Park to celebrate Hanukkah.
Some of the physical work of getting the park set up has been provided by a Buena Vista Correctional Facility work crew.
The money raised by the tree adoptions has been used to fund scholarships for Salida High School students. To date the group has given away approximately $12,000- $15,000 in scholarships.
This year two SHS students will receive college scholarships of $1,000 each.
The Holiday Park Sisterhood will soon begin reviewing dozens of scholarship applications from Salida High School seniors.
Every year for the last several years, Longfellow Elementary School has adopted two trees for the fourth-grade classes.
The children bring in change they collect and make decorations for the trees.
Fourth-grade teacher Deb Colgate said the graduating class of 2020 will be the first class whose students participated in Holiday Park as fourth-graders and who will be eligible for an SHS scholarship from Holiday Park
The annual display has inspired other communities to do something similar, Vigil said.
“This year we welcomed Joann Selman from the Pikes Peak Hospice and Palliative Care center from Colorado Springs. She came down to Salida to see the operation so they could incorporate something similar into their 40-year celebration in 2020,” she said.
For members of the sisterhood, fond memories are associated with Holiday Park.
“When you are working in the park setting up the trees, it is so rewarding to hear the children talking about the season as well as watching people stroll through the park and looking over the trees,” Vigil said.
Sometimes the memories are less charming, such as last year when a buck went through the park, got his antlers caught in the ropes and knocked down several trees while trying to escape.
Besides Vigil, the current sisterhood includes Leah Underwood, Wanda Butera, Pam Wedige, Theresa Casey, Susan Matthews and “special helper” Dan Sack.
Past members have included Jennifer Tynan, Julie Frier, Dara McDonald, Jane Pinto, Kim Wilcoxson, Danielle Peters, Lum Penington, Cheryl Walker and Trisha White.
“Holiday Park is a wonderful tradition that hopefully will continue,” Vigil said.
She said the group hopes there is a nonprofit group who is willing to take over the project and keep the tradition alive for 2020 and beyond.
Members of the sisterhood would be willing to advise whoever takes on the project, she said.
Anyone interested in working on the future of Holiday Park can contact Vigil at 719-539-6691.