A memory of Granby Christmas Past
Special to the Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado
At least one memory of a Christmas past in Grand County, Colorado, reflects the true spirit of the season.
It’s a memory of John W. Ricci and how he used to make Christmas a magical time for the children of Granby. The adults of today who were children at that time still remember fondly how “Ricci,” as he was known, was a real and figurative Santa Claus for all the children of town.
Imagine Granby as a town at half the size it is now. So at 800 people it was a place where just about everyone knew everyone else. It was before the days of massive growth at ski areas and resort towns. Granby and Kremmling were still the main towns of the county.
John W. Ricci owned and operated Ricci’s Columbine Cafe at the corner of U.S. Highway 40 and 4th Street. It was the place to meet and greet and eat in Granby.
Ricci was a voluble and personable man who could be termed a town “character,” in the most positive sense of the word. And he adored children.
He would die at 91 in 2005 never having had children. But during his days in Granby he made up for that void in his life by adopting the children of Granby as his own.
And Christmastime each year was when Ricci demonstrated that spirit.
People remember how Ricci would hitch up one of his beloved horses to a sleigh.
He’d dress up the horse with antlers and garments so he’d look like a reindeer, complete with jingling bells on the harness. Ricci would fill the sleigh with presents and he’d head out into town.
At 90 years old Ricci remembered his trips.
“There was more snow then in town,” he said. “It was easy to drive that sleigh all around town. I’d stop at every house where I knew there were children.”
He’d clamber down and go to the door to dispense his gifts. He’d be dressed as Santa Claus, but somehow the children knew it was Ricci.
“I’d give presents to all the kids, rich or poor or in-between,” he said. “There were no favorites and I didn’t want to single any of them out, you know.”
His Christmas spirit from those long ago days was also reflected at his cafe on Granby’s Main Street. Every year for many years he’d host a large Christmas party in the Columbine Cafe and every child and parent in town was invited for free food and Christmas fun. He’d preside over the event as a tall and lanky Santa Claus.
And of course, everyone, even the children, knew it was Ricci.
A famous postcard depicted the scene of the Christmas party at Ricci’s Columbine Cafe. It appears with this article.
This would have been mostly in the ’60s and early ’70s, before Granby and Grand County became a “resort-rural” community. Then it was mostly just rural.
Why’d he stop?
“Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “The town got bigger. I got older. I sold the cafe.”
All that happened during another time ” another era.
But Ricci continued to be a friend to the children of Granby; right up until the day he died. He still gave children rides on his sleigh before Christmas. He still let kids be around the animals at his little menagerie on County Road 60 right outside town.
Grown adults who were children then still remember with fondness what could only be called John Ricci’s Granby Christmas ” A Memory of A Christmas Past.
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