Gilpin Community Center transformed into mountain holiday market

waf_dont-trust-santa14th Annual Winter Arts Festival hosts 50+ vendors plus local charities and musicians

by Patty Unruh

Mountain folk headed to the Gilpin Community Center (GCC) on Saturday, December 10, for the 14th Annual Winter Arts Festival. It was a great way to support more than fifty local and regional arts and crafts vendors while shopping for unique gifts for family members. It was also an opportunity to donate to worthy causes, enjoy art by Gilpin school children, and to visit with friends old and new.

Musicians from the community kept shoppers in the spirit with lovely holiday songs. Groups included the Gilpin Middle School choir, Revelation 19 choir, pianist Sean Harper, Peak to Peak Chorale, and the Hattie and Haley Band.

Children could get their faces painted with holiday designs by Cindy Zayac while Cindy’s husband Ken whipped together a balloon candy cane or hat. Of course, Santa Claus was on hand to hear the youngster’s requests. A cookie decorating (and eating!) party took place in the multi-purpose room. “It was a real mess!” smiled cookie lady Linda Watson, who didn’t mind in the least.

When the children were done decorating their cookies and themselves, they could escort their parents to the teen room to see the dogs brought for adoption by the Friends of Charlie’s Place. Charlie’s Place is the Clear Creek/Gilpin County animal shelter, whose volunteers are running a “home for the holidays” adoption special. Now through December 30, it costs only $50 to adopt a dog and $35 to adopt a cat. (Regular rates are $75 and $60.) Each animal wore an “adopt me” sweater and a winsome expression that was hard to resist. The mission of Friends of Charlie’s Place is to partner with the shelter to support the needs of the animals. Please check them out at 303-679-2477 or

Gilpin Ambulance Authority (GAA) conducted its third annual chili cook-off for the benefit of the American Cancer Society. GAA paramedic Nicholas (Cole) Van Epps joked, “There is a bitter competition going on among last year’s winners to defend their titles!” For just five dollars and the right to vote, you could taste each variety – “Chocolate Stout Red Chili,” “Rowan’s Row Boat,” “Sacked by Von Miller” pork green chili, “The Cold Buster” pork green chili, and “Veggie Verde Vittles” vegetarian green chili. Eight dollars could get you a whole bowl of your favorite, and for just three dollars you could smother a burrito from Gilpin County Senior Living (GCSL).

Besides tasty Santiago burritos, GCSL also offered sloppy joes and popcorn as they sought to raise funds for a senior living facility. Sharon Perea of GCSL thoughtfully visited the vendors downstairs in the gym to bring refreshments to those unable to leave their booths.

Merchants from Gilpin County, surrounding mountain communities, and the metro area offered a wide variety of creative items. Each vendor was skillful and enthusiastic about his or her product, whether it was sparkling jewelry, colorful clothing, essential oils, breathtaking photography, scented soap, or decorative candles. Here are a few highlights:

Karla Jean Booth of Real Snowflake Photography captured stunning images of real, intricately-patterned flakes. Booth explained that as the snowflakes are falling, she catches them on cellophane and moves them to a microscope slide, wood, rock, coin, or other background, then photographs their lacy designs. The ideal temperature to photograph is between -10 to -20 degrees F.

The staff and students of the Gilpin Clay Studio displayed creative plates, mugs, bowls, and other pieces. Instructor Steve Briggs said that proceeds from these donated pieces would go back into the clay program. The studio artists also participate in the Gilpin Art Tour.

Frank Viragh of Dichroic Art Glass Creations in Georgetown noted, “Dichroic glass was first used for the windows in the space shuttle. Then someone got clever and realized it could be used to make jewelry!”

Mark and Pamela Hill of Lougheed Design featured their creative wood carving. They first prepared a design on the computer, then transferred their art to exotic hardwoods through a process called toolpathing. Design themes included the Pacific Northwest, Viking, Celtic crosses, suns and moons, and even custom signs.

Two Mile Creek Specialty Foods offered habanero jelly and other pepper jellies. They suggested using these bold jellies to glaze grilled chicken, make an “adult” PB&J, serve over scrambled eggs, stir into sour cream for a chip dip, and many other uses.

Sydney Bernzott and Raul Ramos represented the Bonfils Colorado Marrow Donor Registry Program. A few people ages 18-44 signed up to donate a gift of life to those with cancer.

Sonja Swan had a large selection of Usborne Books for children. Members of Christ the King Community Church supported Swan in her goal of donating these attractive books to Gilpin County Social Services to use for Christmas gifts for nine needy families in the county. She reported that any gifts that were left over after the families received the books would go to kids in need at Gilpin County School. “I want to make children happy and to give them something for Christmas. I’m blessed to have my church family support this,” she said.

On the practical side, the Yay! Team’s motto was “helping busy neighbors get things done,” like household and yard tasks, fire mitigation, moving in or out, decluttering, running errands, downsizing, and much more.

Rather than slip-sliding to town on icy roads for Black Friday bargains, it was fun to visit with friends, enjoy music provided by our talented neighbors, chat with those who had made their own products, and get in the spirit of the season by helping others. Thanks to the Gilpin Community Center for providing another festive holiday market!

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