Hayden’s roving Christmas tree tradition ends | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden’s roving Christmas tree tradition ends

Walt Webber poses with the roving Christmas tree in one of the early years of the tradition.

— A little piece of Christmas flair will be noticeably absent in Hayden this year.

The roving Christmas tree, an annual one-float parade organized by the extended Webber family, will not happen this Christmas Eve, according to Cindy Wright, granddaughter of roving Christmas tree creator Walt Webber.

Wright said the family has enjoyed putting together the float in the past, but most of her children and their families no longer live in Routt County, making the endeavor too large a burden for her family to continue.

Wright said she had hoped someone else in the community would step up to take the responsibility over the last year, but no one did.

“We’re hoping that in one year without it, people will really miss it,” Wright said.

Wright posted about ending the tradition on Facebook and also approached Hayden’s Parks and Recreation Board about taking over the tradition, which involves driving a parade float with Santa Claus, one or more Christmas trees, candy, lights and seasonal music around town for one night each Christmas Eve.

Former board member Sandy Boston said the board was open to the idea but didn’t think the department would be able to carry out the activity on Christmas Eve night. She said Wright wasn’t open to changing the traditional date.

Boston said the town has other events going on near the holidays, and employees are busy.

“We already have so many events going on, we’re maxed out,” Boston said.

Wright said the tradition first began in the 1930s in downtown Steamboat Springs, where her grandparents Walt and Gertrude Webber then lived.

The first float only played music, but over the years, trees, Santa Claus and candy were added.

In some years, the tree visited Oak Creek, Yampa, Hayden and Steamboat Springs in the days before Christmas.

In later years, the effort grew so large that it was taken over by the Steamboat Springs Lions Club, and eventually, it moved to Hayden and was managed by a 4-H club in town.

When that club disbanded about 11 years ago, Wright, then living in Hayden, decided to bring the tradition back into her own family.

She said the reaction she receives from excited adults and children on Christmas Eve makes the effort of organizing the float worth it each year.

“There is absolutely no way to express the feeling it gives you to be giving the community that joy,” Wright said. “It’s not just the little kids, but we’ve got a lot of people in Hayden that have grown up with it. And a lot of people say that this is the highlight of their Christmas. It’s just magical.”

Wright said the family in recent years has used two floats, with each one traveling different streets in Hayden, making sure to cover as much territory as possible and not to overlap routes.

“There’s whole neighborhoods outside waiting for you,” Wright said. “It’s really heartwarming.”

A Facebook group, “Webber’s Roving Christmas Tree” includes lots of old photos of the roving Christmas tree in action and is a place for people to share their memories of the holiday tradition.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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