Camp Christmas might be bringing some holiday cheer to Lakewood this winter.
On Monday, Lakewood City Council will consider a resolution that would bring the seasonal immersive art experience to Heritage Lakewood Belmar Park, in hopes of giving the area an economic boost during the holidays after a difficult couple of years for retailers and restaurants.
“Camp Christmas is a delightful and immersive art/ lights/ historical holiday display,” wrote Lakewood Economic Development Director Robert Smith in an email to Denverite. “This project attracted nearly 70,000 visitors in the past and will likely do even better here in Lakewood. With their timed entry ticket sales, the flow of people is well managed, so the experience is wonderful and completely unique.”
The 42-day holiday light experience was created by multimedia artist Lonnie Hanzon, who’s known locally for his work on large scale projects like the Wizard’s Chest and multiple years of Denver PrideFest installations. In 2019, Hanzon partnered with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts to open Camp Christmas in The Hangar at Stanley Marketplace. The colorful mazelike holiday celebration, which Hanzon told CPR is inspired by gaudy holiday window displays, generated a lot of excitement in the Denver area. A Lakewood city staff memo said that in 2019, it sold tickets “of the equivalent of 7.3 sold out concerts at Red Rocks.” Last year, Camp Christmas went virtual.
Hanzon and the DCPA declined to comment pending the outcome of Monday’s vote. The Stanley has not returned our request for comment.
The proposed agreement with Lakewood suggests that an in-person Camp Christmas in 2021 might bring people into local businesses in the Belmar area after much of last year’s holiday shopping was done online and fewer people were gathering in restaurants. The Lakewood staff memo estimated that partnering with Camp Christmas would attract 84,000 to 113,000 visitors to the area and bring in over $6 million for Lakewood from retail store and restaurant patronage, in addition to revenue from ticket sales. Per the memo, the project would also employ dozens of artists, set builders and staff in Lakewood and would source labor and materials directly from Lakewood.
Under the proposed agreement, the city would pay Camp Christmas an advance of up to $700,000 for production and planning expenses — half of Camp Christmas’s production costs, according to the memo — and share in revenue from ticket sales. Heritage Lakewood Belmar Park, a sort of cultural center that offers rotating exhibits, would also be compensated for rental fees.
The funding would come from Lakewood’s economic development fund, which Smith said was created in 1985 and is supported by a lodgers’ tax. Smith said the fund was designed to help facilitate the city’s economic development goals, including expanding the tax base, promoting tourism and attracting visitors to Lakewood.