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Holiday Open House At Mesa Verde National Park Set For December 5


Mesa Verde National Park will host its annual Holiday Open House on December 5 this year. NPS photo of cliff dwellings illuminated by luminaria.

The soft glow of luminarias will guide visitors through some of the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park on December 5 when the park holds its Holiday Open House.

The event will run from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Chapin Mesa headquarters area.

Everyone is invited to join the park staff in this holiday celebration featuring special tours, luminarias, musical entertainment and refreshments.Ranger-guided tours of Spruce Tree House, the third largest cliff dwelling in the park, will be presented at 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. Spruce Tree House will be open for self-guided tours from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Luminarias will glow along the pathways throughout the headquarters area, a National Historic Landmark District, and along the trail to Spruce Tree House. It's recommended that you dress warmly and bring a flashlight.

The Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum will remain open until 9 p.m.There will be musical entertainment in the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum Auditorium throughout the evening.

The non-profit Mesa Verde Museum Association (MVMA) Museum bookstore will be open highlighting the sale of books, posters, puppets, historic photographs, and great holiday gifts as well as in-store specials.Bring your gift list along to take advantage of this special occasion. Proceeds benefit Mesa Verde National Park.

Attendance at the Open House is free.Refreshments will be provided by ARAMARK at the Spruce Tree Terrace.

No park entrance fee will be charged after 4 p.m. on Thursday, December 5. Mark your calendar and plan to join us in the park festivities! For further information, please contact the park at 970-529-4465.


Didn't realize the tribes who built this clebrated Christmas.

Another step in the Disneyfacation of our parks?

Anyone want to bet that if we were able to really trace this idea back to its origins, we'd discover some political and money pressures behind it from local businesses and, very likely, the park's concessionaire.

Yet, on the other hand, I'd still love to be able to enjoy the simple beauty of the luminaria lighting at Cliff Palace. I've never been there, but I'll bet that there is a kind of reverent hush among the people who are viewing it. Is providing an experience like that all bad when it just might bring about some stirrings in the hearts of some entertainment jaded Americans?

Lee, you sum up my feelings on it pretty well. Candle light programs have become ubiquitous. It is like how black powder firing demonstrations were shown to be big crowd pleasers so parks that only had a tangential connection to the civil war began giving them. Its all about doing something flashy to draw a crowd. One example is how at Ft. Pulaski they fire federal seige guns inside the fort when of course those guns were attacking Pulaski from another island. I have to wonder if the concussion of those cannon firing demonstrations is accelerating the detonation of the fort.

The sanctioned message from NPS leadership now is for parks to go outside their enabling legislation to up visitation.

What this translates to in understaffed parks is that the paid career ranger is having to spend their days planning and preparing for these special events while the regular visitor from the general public gets short shrift because they are left to be served by volunteers and inexperienced interns there to free paid interp rangers from having to staff an information desk.

Perpetual, I'm afraid you're right. I just looked again at the last sentence in my post above: " Is providing an experience like that all bad when it just might bring about some stirrings in the hearts of some entertainment jaded Americans?" and recognized a certain irony in it.

Have so many of us become entertainment junkies that we must be entertained in places where the real entertainment is something much deeper inside those who are still capable of feeling it? Like the sound of falling snow or just being surrounded by a field of wildflowers or that special little feeling that comes inside one's heart when in the presence of a place where history was made?

Then on the other hand, is it possible that experiences like the luminarias or the cannon might provide an avenue that might enable some folks to begin to feel those things for the first time?

I don't know.

Or the concept of 'value added'. If an interp or management staff looks at what they already have - the sound of the falling snow, the shine of the moon through darkened treetops, finding the trail of tracks and spoor - and they decide, "Well, what can we add, what can we do to enhance, or to specially entice on this or that occasion?"

I don't know that that is a bad thing, especially if it is something that doesn't detract or subtract from the natural experience itself.

If folks will come out for the candle lit event, perhaps they'll catch the magic and come on back out on their own for the underlying natural experience.

Just to be clear I have no problem with special events per say. The Over Mountain Victory Encampment at the Blue Ridge Parkway is a wonderful event. It is just that so often I have seen them put on at the expense of the experience of the regular visitor from the general public and often doing things that are six degrees of separation from the parks enabling legislation.

I've even seen superintendents direct NPS staff to conduct outdoor showing of movies in towns far from the park -movies that have nothing to do with the site. They do this I suppose to keep good relations with the local governments but it also places a bigger load on the staff back working in the park resulting in poorer service.

I am reminded of the very popular decoration of the Biltmore Estate for Christmas. It is a privately run historic site (and a very well run one I might add) but the reality is that the Vanderbilts never would have decorated the place for Christmas. They were back at their home in New York by December --they only summered in North Carolina. The huge house would have been shuttered months before Chritmas. But hey, its popular and brings in money so historical accuracy goes out the window. That doesn't bother me so much with a private operation like Biltmore but we should expect a more academic approach from our government I think.

Perpetual Seasonal,

George Vanderbilt first official party for his friends and family at Biltmore was on Christmas Eve in 1895. That may have been one of the only Christmases the Vanderbilts spent at Biltmore, but I believe that one Christmas is likely the inspiration for what is done at Biltmore today.

Thanks for the information Sara. I stand corrected. And I'm reminded of the perils of just passing along stuff I've heard and not checking it out with authoritative sources.

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