The town of Dillon could not have asked for a better day to parade the Capitol Christmas Tree through its streets. A cloudless blue sky and unseasonably warm weather had attendees taking off their jackets and lining up to take pictures with the tree.
Matt Miano, events manager for the town, estimated that somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 people passed through for a glimpse of the tree and a taste of the inaugural Hibernation Hoedown.
Among those thousand attendees was Dillon Girl Scout Troop 4415. The girls had designed a skirt for one of the other 70 trees traveling alongside the Capitol Tree on its way to Washington, D.C. Girl Scout troops throughout Colorado designed skirts for the trees.
"What an honor it is to have the White House Christmas tree in Dillon," said Mayor Ron Holland.
The tree, like a guest of honor, lay inside a nearly 100-foot semi truck trailer at the center of the hoedown. A see-through plastic section gave a glimpse of the piney branches, decorated in colorful Christmas ornaments, which were designed by schoolchildren throughout the state.
Along the sides of the truck, markers were passed out and people signed their names on its side, wishing the tree well on its journey.
Hot dogs sizzled, apple cider steamed, and local bands played catchy music throughout the event. Santa and Mrs. Claus took the opportunity to dance, and Smokey the Bear offered high fives to a large group of excited first- and second-graders from Silverthorne Elementary.
Cynthia Bolt, a second-grade teacher at Silverthorne Elementary, said her class has been studying natural habitats, and jumped at the opportunity to see the Capitol Tree. The children's trip was made possible by transportation donated by Colorado Mountain Express, allowing all first- and second-graders to attend.
Mark Jeffery, from Custom Audio Design, which donated its sound services to the hoedown, felt that such an opportunity could not be passed up, for either himself or his second-grade son.
"I've never seen the Christmas tree live, and I want my son to see the Christmas tree live," he said.
Jeffery's son, Baylor, taking a moment before his hayride, seemed impressed with the whole affair.
"It's pretty cool," he exclaimed. "I didn't know trees could grow that tall!"
Baylor's enthusiasm was shared by his classmate, Kaleb Moses, who was chosen to give a short presentation on stage. He read out facts on the Capitol Tree, and Colorado's participation, to cheers and applause from the crowd.
Most prevalent was an atmosphere of community awareness and pride in all the attendees, from the children to the adults. There was a sense of involvement in a national event, as well as of a personalization from this particular corner of the country.
"I wanted to make sure this was a community event," Miano said.