To Lonnie Hanzon, the King of Hudson Gardens: An open love letter

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Word's come down that the annual Hudson Holiday lighting extravaganza, designed by Lonnie Hanzon and bankrolled by the Museum of Outdoor Arts, is no more -- and I'm telling you, I am crushed. That's because I'm not only a holiday light-show junkie, but also a lover of the arts, and Lonnie's magically personal way with lighting forever meshed my two enthusiasms more tightly than a suit of chain-mail armor. The sad story is one we've heard before: Twinkling stuff and nonsense requires dollars, more dollars than Hudson Holiday apparently pulled in over its run of a couple years. And even MOA's Cynthia Madden Leitner, the most dedicated of arts patrons, has her limits.

Here's what she said in her press release: "This was a bright vision and a brilliant celebration of the museum's devotion to accessible public art. We enlightened a lot of people about more energy-efficient outdoor lighting options, and we lightened a lot of hearts with this non-denominational show. MOA and Hudson Gardens agreed to cancel this year's presentation rather than compromise the high production standard, family value and artistic level we established with our presentation the last two years." Sigh.

Lonnie -- who's been a resident wizard, a public artist (his "Evolution of the Ball" arch is one of the few high points left for visitors to Coors Field), a genius float-builder (a stint with the Parade of Lights), magic lantern enthusiast, collector of whimsies and the mastermind behind Hudson Holiday -- would begin spinning his Rumpelstiltskin quilt of attractions both traditional and high-tech at the gardens early in the fall, posting pictures as things took shape. I'm going to miss that sense of building excitement he exuded during the process, not to mention the finished product.

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Lonnie says of it all (to quote A Chorus Line), "I won't regret what I did for love. It was a wonderful thing to do, and I'm thrilled it touched so many hearts and grew so fast. I hope the spirit of it finds a home someplace else." Me, too. Without meaning to be facetious, I do so confidently call Lonnie Denver's faerie king -- always flittering a little above the crowd, he's the guy in the fairy kingdom who makes the sugarplums dance and all our dreams come true.

So hear me, Lonnie: It ain't over till it's over. Please continue to delight us. Work your wonders in downtown store windows or wherever you can. We know you'll pull through, rise like a Phoenix from the ashes, powered by your own imagination and ingenuity, to delight us all over again.

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Yes!  This is a huge loss to Denver and to this part of town in particular.  It's mind-boggling that such a special, unique and magical installation would be dropped without a fight, especially as its popularity was growing so very fast.  I'm sure there's more to this story, as in all stories like this involving art and commerce--but in any case, yes, a thousand "I'm not worthy!s" to the true genius of Lonnie Hanzon.

architect birmingham
architect birmingham

Awesome pics.Am felling really sorry about cancellation of your master work.Thanks for sharing this post with us.Keep sharing with us in future too.

Cyrus T. Pyle
Cyrus T. Pyle


I am so terribly sorry to hear about the cancellation of your master work holiday lighting show. We have entire creative teams at work who cannot come up with your visions. Is there any other place to stage the show in the Denver area? There is so little time to before you have to start setting up. I've been racking my brain to think of another venue. What about a golf course, or the Loretto College campus, or one of the farms that does the Halloween stuff? Part of the reason I was in Denver a few weeks ago was to go to the Denver Film Society's event at the Lakeside Amusement Park. That place has a cool vibe of its own. How cool would it be to put the holiday show in that amuesment park?!?!? Tell me what I can do to help you with this disaster.


Sandra Renteria
Sandra Renteria

Thanks so much Susan for letting us know about this "tragedy"  looking forward to it's revival

Barry Raphael
Barry Raphael

Thank you for your heart-felt writing, Susan. I have been looking forward to the Hudson Holiday lighting display, and hope that it can return in the future.

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