“It means excitement, it means camaraderie, a lot of love and the real meaning of Christmas,” Longinotti said.
That sense of a small-town community is exactly what the town and organizations like the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Alliance are going for with holiday festivities, which began with the 79th annual Starlighting event last weekend.
“I feel that people in our community are looking to be able to pass on to their children a lot of the traditions they grew up with, and we’re saying it’s good to create new traditions,” said Pam Ridler, president and CEO of the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce. View our directory of local Castle Rock Businesses here. Be sure to add Castle Rock to the Location box to filter out other businesses.
The Starlighting event had a variety of family-friendly activities surrounding the lighting of a large star atop the Castle Rock.
But the Starlighting has another purpose: encouraging people to shop in Castle Rock, which is one of the primary goals of the holiday festivities downtown.
“It was interesting to us to find out back in the ’30s … they wanted people to come to spend their money in Castle Rock. So they created a tourist attraction and that was the star,” Ridler said.
To capitalize on that, this year the chamber has also put up a large, decorative Christmas tree at Festival Park. Also this year, the town is putting up holiday lighting between Fifth and Second streets and Wilcox and Jerry streets.
The Downtown Alliance, which is the Downtown Development Authority and Downtown Merchants Association, is also in its third year of hosting the Rink at the Rock, an ice rink downtown. Kevin Tilson, director of the Downtown Alliance, said in the past two years about 12,000 people have skated at the rink each year. He said that’s brought many parents out to have coffee at Lost Coffee or shop at businesses like Finn LaFleur nearby while their kids skate.
“I think it’s great when it’s the winter season and the snow is out,” Tilson said. “People picture that Norman Rockwell kind of a town. Castle Rock has that to offer, and ice skating goes along with that.”
Desiree LaFleur, owner of Finn LaFleur, said the ice rink next door and the horse-drawn carriage rides really have created a good shopping atmosphere.
“It’s tough to compete with corporate and the big malls, so we’ve really done a good job of creating a unique environment where people want to stay here and support local businesses,” LaFleur said.
Bridget Williamson, who’s lived in Castle Rock a year and a half, said downtown Castle Rock is part of the reason she and her family moved here.
“We always lived somewhere that has a really quaint downtown,” Williamson said. “We’re kind of drawn to areas like that, not the chains.”
Greg Boman, owner of the Emporium gift shop and chairman of the Downtown Development Authority, said getting people to shop local is important, but it’s also important to create an environment where people can connect and reconnect with each other.
“I think what you see with the start of the holiday season is the need for people to get away to a destination and come and discover new things and want to reacquaint with family and friends,” Boman said.
Building community during the holiday is why Albert Chai, co-owner of Blue Spruce Animal Clinic, is part of the decorating of small Christmas trees businesses adopt at Festival Park.
“I just think it’s a way for everyone to come together and it’s a good time,” Chai said.
And it’s the people that has Longinotti continuing to come back to downtown.
“The people are lovely,” Longinotti said. “Everyone talks to each other, they’re kind — it’s wonderful.”
Clayton Woullard: 303-954-2953 or firstname.lastname@example.org