Loveland’s Winter Holiday Council plagued by thefts, vandalism

Meghan Albañez, the new chair of the Winter Holiday Council, warns that without help from the public or the city of Loveland, many of the lights and decorations maintained by the council could go dark.

With projects including holiday decorations at Foote Lagoon, Lake Loveland, Dwayne Webster Veterans Park and the lighting of the Namaqua Star, the group is funded through sales of an annual Christmas ornament, and is staffed entirely by volunteers. Recent vandalism and thefts combined with financial struggles prompted Albañez to address the Loveland City Council on Tuesday, asking for help.

“The more money and help we have the better the chances we have to keep this tradition, one that began in 1989, not only alive but growing bigger and better,” Albañez told the City Council on Tuesday. “Dwindling support coupled with vandalism makes me a little nervous for prolonged survival. We remain optimistic, but we can’t do it alone.”

Several instances of theft and property damage were reported to police over the holiday season, including the destruction of a commissioned display by a local artist on the opening of the annual Light the Lagoon event. A witness described a group of young people dismantling the display, pieces of which were found floating in the lagoon the following morning.

The city currently provides a few in-kind donations, according to Ben Cordsen, a member of the council who manages the sale of ornaments and the selection of the artist who will create it each year. But financing for maintenance and other costs, which includes paying artists to create ornaments and displays, is generated only through ornament sales, he said.

This year, ornament sales generated a little more than $28,000 in revenue, half of which went towards the creation of the ornaments themselves, Cordsen said.

A tradition that began in 1990, the ornaments are created by a local artist and include the year and the name of the city of Loveland. Prior years’ ornaments are available on the Winter Holiday Council’s website.

Albañez, a licensed realtor, has only been on the holiday council since May of last year. She asked the City Council on Tuesday to consider providing financial support for the Winter Holiday Council, and asked the public to help out through volunteering, ornament purchases and donations.

She compared the annual tradition to Pastels on 5th, another local event that brings the community together and supports local artists. The difference, she said, is that some of the winter traditions might not be around much longer.

“If those disappeared, it would be noticeable,” she told the Reporter-Herald on Thursday. “It takes away part of the holidays, so we’re trying our best to keep this going.”

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