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Starlighting in Castle Rock

A tradition 84 years in the making

“Magic. This event is magic. Starlighting is like being in a snow globe fantasy for a day, where all this incredible magic takes place.” - Bernie Greenberg, business owner  

Side Bar:

“The Star is a beacon of hope, a glowing symbol of our community. The spirit of Starlighting lasts year-round. Despite the growth that takes place in Castle Rock, the small-town mindset is prevalent through Starlighting.” - Nick Lucey, local photographer 

The year was 1936. Our great nation was struggling through a crippling Depression and the “Dust Bowl” of the 1930’s only intensified the economic impact on families. Morale was at an all-time low, and the people of Castle Rock were losing hope. The leaders of our community, with hopes of bringing travelers and commerce to our town, decided to build a star that would be perched atop Castle Rock and seen from the major highways leading into town. Bringing in business was only one goal of the Star; boosting the spirits of townspeople and travelers alike played a major role in the decision to create this icon. With the land on which “The Rock” stands donated by rancher George Stewart, the gentleman of the Works Progress Administration began building, and in 1936, “the Star” was born. With few exceptions, our Star has illuminated the sky between November and January of every year since 1936, bringing hope to all who see it. 

It’s Tradition!

A special birthday plate. That certain restaurant on your anniversary. Opening a gift on Christmas Eve. Even those special socks you wear on gameday so your team will win - Traditions bring us joy, laughter and memories. Building traditions within the family provides a sense of identity, strengthening the family bond, bringing stability and comfort to our lives and teaching us values. Our fondest memories are borne from the traditions our parents upheld and the emotional connections they created. 

Starlighting is a Castle Rock tradition that has brightened the lives of townspeople for generations. It is not only the beauty of the Star, bright against the dark sky and illuminating the Rock, it’s also the idea that we live in a community that cares. Our Town and our community conjure up images of Mayberry and Stars Hollow - Places where neighbors look out for one another — they help each other and they strive to make other people’s lives a little bit better. “A Hollywood producer couldn’t create what we experience here in Castle Rock during Starlighting. You have to see it to believe it,” says former Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce Chairman and business owner, Bernie Greenberg. “ It doesn’t seem possible that we could have people celebrating within these few blocks, greeting one another with smiles and having a wonderful time … but it is possible here in Castle Rock! Starlighting is something that represents so directly peace on earth and goodwill to all.” Castle Rock is such a place and the Star is a daily reminder of how blessed we are to live here. It was built on the premise that life is hard but here in our community, we look out for one another and we have hope for the future. This mindset is carried into each and every Starlighting celebration that we have and it is our privilege to be able to pass this mindset on to the following generations. 

Preparations

In the weeks, days and hours leading up to Starlighting, town officials work tirelessly to prepare the Star and the streets for the big event. Fun Fact: The Castle Rock Fire Department are responsible for repairing and maintaining the Star! The volunteer firefighters originally put the Star on top of Castle Rock in 1936, and the tradition of firefighters caring for the Star continues today. Currently, there are three firefighters that are “Keepers of the Star” and not only do they care for the Star year-round, they prepare it for lighting. Twenty four hours prior to the official event, they are on the top of Castle Rock, changing the 100 light bulbs, checking wires, and ensuring the lighting goes on without a hitch. The weather must be watched closely as it is precarious to be on top of a 45-foot structure with the Colorado wind swirling or snow flying. There have been some harrowing times as these dedicated men and women prepare our Star for lighting. Once the Star has been lit for the season, the firefighters are still up on the Rock weekly, making sure all the bulbs are working and the Star looks perfect for the thousands of people who see it every day. Matt Rettmer, a firefighter who has been caring for the Star for 22 years, says that the symbolism and tradition is in the sense of community it brings. “The Star keeps the town small, homey and rural. It is an iconic vision of hope, and it grounds people to what is important.” Thank you to Matt, Jay and Tammy  - Keepers of the Star.

The Event 

Historically, Starlighting is a full day of celebrations in downtown Castle Rock, ultimately culminating in the lighting of the Star. Throughout the day, families and friends can celebrate the coming Holiday season together with activities for all. Rink at the Rock (https://www.downtowncastlerock.com/rink-at-the-rock-1) opens for ice skating for the season on the day of Starlighting. Fire pits brighten up downtown with their warm glow, and offer a place for families to sip the hot chocolate that many businesses provide. The windows of downtown businesses are decorated for Christmas with a contest being held and coveted prizes given out for the most festive. Children are able to talk with Santa Claus and plead their case that they were well-behaved this past year and really do deserve a pony. Christmas carols are sung to passersby, offering the sounds of the season that warm our hearts. This year’s commemorative ornaments are available to hang on your tree, adding to the collections from years past. As darkness looms, the stage will be filled with community leaders welcoming everyone to Castle Rock. The Chamber of Commerce chairperson will read the Starlighting poem, written in 1966, highlighting why we are all here and the symbol that brings us hope. The children onstage will then begin the countdown for Santa to pull the magic lever that will turn on all the Christmas lights throughout the streets of downtown. The massive trees surrounding the Wilcox Building at the site of the old Douglas County Courthouse are heavily laden with blue lights that cast a magical glow around the entire property. The picturesque twinkle spreads through downtown, accompanied by the surprised gasps and squeals of delight from the children. To top off the night, the Star is then lit. Our icon of hope shines brightly in the sky while fireworks break the hushed silence and celebrate our town. 

Just like many things this year, the Starlighting event will look a bit different. The Chamber of Commerce is working nonstop to provide the tradition that we all love in a meaningful way while also respecting the Covid limitations. Keeping safety first and foremost, Pam Ridler, Chamber President and CEO, says that Starlighting is all about community. “We are still coming together to make it happen. There will be a deviation from tradition in some senses, but there will still be an experience for your family to participate in and usher in the Holiday season.” Pam has been an integral part of Starlighting for 21 years. Her goal with the event is clear, “This is our Norman Rockwell community event. We want to see the children and their excitement. It brings nostalgia to our hearts to see families coming together and preparing for the Holidays.” As with many things, the event details are developing daily. For the latest updates and event plans, visit www.CastleRockStarlighting.com

No matter what the event looks like this year, plan to partake in Starlighting — hearing Christmas carols, seeing the downtown lights lit, watching fireworks and most of all, showing your children that despite the hardships that arise, our community will band together and offer hope for the future. 

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