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How some towns help keep the Christmas spirit alive in the Cowboy State

An old train is decorated in Christmas lights
Jamie Vislosky
/
University of Wyoming

Sounds of car horns and Christmas music can be heard on the streets of downtown Laramie on a recent chilly night. Snow falls from the night sky, straight out of a classic holiday movie. People like Charles Bloom are lined up on Ivinson Avenue watching the parade.

“Actually, I used to live here in Laramie for 13 years and I’ve lived in Cheyenne for the last five,” said Bloom.

He still drives over to watch Laramie’s parade though. Why?

“Honestly, it's the people, the energy, the excitement,” he said.

According to Bloom, that energy and excitement comes from the size of the community here.

“I mean, they're both great parades. But they're different. This one, really, is smaller and more community-based and Cheyenne is larger. Still love the community there. It’s a different atmosphere.” said Bloom

Parades are a fairly common way to celebrate, but some towns do more. In Cheyenne, residents can tour the Union Pacific Railroad steam shop which houses its historic steam locomotives. It’s only open a few times a year. Or, for a different kind of horsepower, people can send their letters to Santa on the Pony Express.

“Our most popular event is our Pony Express Ride at noon and two on Saturdays during Old West Holiday,” said Amber Trevizo, destination events and programming manager for the City of Cheyenne.

She helps organize the holiday festivities, which she bases on the town’s history.

“Well, I can't speak for the other events, but I do feel like it [what] is very specific to Cheyenne and the old west feel,” said Trevizo.

And Trevizo says there’s enough cheer to go around.

“Old West Holidays is open to anyone that has the Christmas spirit. So young or old, and everyone in between, it's for everybody,” she said.

And while many people put up Christmas lights of their own, some towns have special set ups. Sean Clark, from Gillette, drives through the Festival of Lights every year with his family.

Christmas lights in the shape of an elf holding a sign pointing the direction to more lights
David Bishop
/
University of Wyoming

“There's a back road you take and go through. At the very end of it, there's a big light show where you listen to the songs and we watch a big screen that has a whole bunch of little shows and cartoons for the kids, that play all of the songs like “Let it Go” and the hot chocolate song from “Polar Express”,” said Clark.

The annual event runs from mid-November through the first week of January. It’s made up of over 1,000,000 individual bulbs arranged in around 50 displays.

“Honestly, I've never really seen anything like this anywhere else. This is almost like a drive in movie,” said Clark.

According to the City of Gillette, it’s Wyoming’s largest holiday lights festival.

Back in Laramie, the parade is slowly coming to an end. Children wrapped in blankets scurry off to their parents' cars as snow cloaks the streets. Many are probably headed to do the same thing as Bloom.

“Honestly, I’m looking forward to some hot cocoa,” he said with a grin.

For many residents, the holidays hold a special place in their lives. And from Gillette to Cheyenne, towns play a big role in how people from around the Cowboy state celebrate.

Originally from Casper, Wyoming, Taylor moved to Laramie, Wyoming in the fall of 2020. She is a fourth-year journalism major with a minor in jazz at the University of Wyoming. She has participated in many musical ensembles on campus, including the University of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra and the Western Thunder Marching Band. In her free time, she enjoys playing video games, watching cartoons, camping, and swimming.

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