Glow of Castle Rock star a longtime tradition

Signature structure was installed during Depression, lit nearly every year since

Jessica Gibbs
jgibbs@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 12/9/19

'Tis the “Season of the Star” in Castle Rock, the weeks following the town's annual Starlighting festival, held this year on Nov. 23, which starts the star shining from atop The Rock for the …

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Glow of Castle Rock star a longtime tradition

Signature structure was installed during Depression, lit nearly every year since

Posted

'Tis the “Season of the Star” in Castle Rock, the weeks following the town's annual Starlighting festival, held this year on Nov. 23, which starts the star shining from atop The Rock for the holidays.

Castle Rock Fire Chief Norris Croom briefed council on Dec. 3 about the star's history. Firefighters first built the star in 1936, and the town rebuilt it in 1949 to make it safer and sturdier, Croom said.

The idea for a star was sparked when town officials heard that residents of nearby Palmer Lake planned to build one. In the thick of the Great Depression, Castle Rock hoped a star would attract travelers to town, and built a star of its own.

Many of the materials used in 1936 were donated by nearby businesses, and contributions included The Rock itself. George P. Stewart offered the land to Castle Rock to build the star.

“The Rock used to be private property, and this gentlemen was kind enough to donate it,” Croom said.

The star is 40 feet high and 40 feet wide, constructed of iron poles, and illuminated by 100 bulbs.

The town has lit the star every year since its construction, today for a cost of approximately $600 each season, except for during World War II, when the holiday seasons from 1941 through 1944 did not include lighting.

“We had an energy crisis. Electricity was scarce,” Croom said.

In 1945, the star was converted into a “V” for victory to mark the end of the war. Maintenance and upkeep is largely provided by volunteers within the fire department. Two volunteers, Tammy Denhard and Matt Rettmer, have dedicated decades to maintaining and repairing the star.

Denhard told council the star requires experienced volunteers to maintain it because of its size. She and Rettmer must use harnesses and ropes to climb the structure when working on it.

“We're both pretty well-trained in what we do,” Rettmer said.

The town's annual Starlighting celebration began in 1965. The town lights the star at the celebration one week before Thanksgiving, and it remains lit through the end of the National Western Stock Show in January. The Starlighting celebration draws thousands each year for food, drinks and music before the lighting of the star and a fireworks show.

The star is sometimes lit outside of the Christmas season to mark special events, such as the Broncos Super Bowl wins, following Sept. 11, 2001 and the 100th anniversary of the Douglas County Fair and Rodeo. Following the death of Douglas County Sheriff's Office Deputy Zackari Parrish in 2017, the town changed the star to include a thin blue line.

Croom noted that modern-day volunteers must haul up supplies by hand after climbing The Rock, just a they did when the star was built and rebuilt.

“That was still quite a feat,” he said.

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