For the past 63 years, the Denver Debutante Ball has been held just before Christmas at the Brown Palace Hotel and serves as a historic highlight of Denver’s holiday season. The elaborate and iconic chandelier, owned by the Denver Debutante Ball, is installed just before Thanksgiving and reigns over the Grand Rotunda until the close of the National Western Stock Show in January. Over the past half-century, this immense crystal chandelier has served as the crown jewel of the DDDB committee’s elaborate décor scheme and serves as an integral symbol of the Denver Debutante Ball. Each year, the committee re-adorns the chandelier with stunning ornaments to complement both the décor of the Brown Palace and the color of the Post Debutante gown.
In 1959, the Debutante Ball’s chandelier was first mentioned in Denver newspaper coverage: “The 20-foot-wide chandelier was a focal point of the decorative schematics, with masses of red roses and sparkling lights against a background of flocked gypsophila.” During the 1960s, the chairmen of the Denver Debutante Ball worked with Evergreen Specialty to create a prototype of what was to become the permanent super-structure for the chandelier. Over the next six decades, newspaper accounts include descriptions of the year’s various adornments and colors which change annually. These newspaper accounts include “silver chico branches, Midas gold ornaments and gold lights, baroque gaslight globes and a giant chandelier of crystal beads and stunning prisms set with Paris-pink candles.” Additional descriptions include sapphire, red and green plaid, Dubonnet colored aspen leaves, pale pink snow flocked baby’s breath and giant frosted green arms. It was during the 1970s that “Colorado Lace” or tumbleweed, became the chandelier’s traditional decorative cover. The chandelier has transformed over the years into a lavishly beaded super-structure of twinkling lights and holiday ornaments.
Working closely with Alpine Artisan Studios (renamed from Evergreen Specialty), the massive crystal chandelier was retrofitted with environmentally friendly LED lights in 2007. In 2015, the beading was completely overhauled. This included the addition of 12,600 feet of new beads, which took five workers 10 days to complete. The current iteration is now constructed of over 470 pounds of silver and gold metallic glitter, 4,800 ornaments and 60,000 lights covering a two-tiered, steel and flame resistant natural oak frame. The chandelier is carefully taken down, refurbished and painstakingly cleaned and re-hung each year. This requires four 20-foot-long trucks to transport the parts to the Brown Palace where it is assembled by a construction crew of 16, under the direction of four engineers, into a 25-foot-tall by 25-foot wide crystal beaded masterpiece. The chandelier is then skillfully raised by a hand crank with two scissor lifts assisting with the addition of fragile decorative pieces.
Over the past half-century, the chandelier has become a cherished icon of Denver. While the Debutante Ball uses it only on the evening of the ball, it is happily shared for the entire holiday season for the enjoyment of the guests of this landmark hotel and the greater Denver community. This glittering treasure of crystal, beads, and everchanging décor heralds the start of the holiday season and illuminates Denver’s hearts and imagination each year throughout the holiday season.
Compiled by Barbara Knight, Susanna Shannon, Risa Dikeou, Katie Wilkins, Michelle Hanley and Julie Wham.
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