Holiday Décor at Historic Hotel Features Environmentally “Green” Lighting and
Native California Materials that Amplify Setting and Heritage
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif., December 16, 2008 – In the holiday tradition of green and red hues that spruce up Yuletide surroundings, Yosemite’s grand lodge has placed the emphasis on “green” this year. Striving to adopt environmentally-friendly lighting and native decor into the holiday spirit, The Ahwahnee®, Yosemite’s Four-Diamond, national historic landmark hotel, has replaced all incandescent bulbs on its holiday trees with energy efficient, light-emitting diode (LED) varieties, while honoring the hotel’s spectacular setting and heritage with ornamentation made from a variety of materials grown locally in California.
Designer Richard Kollath and producer Edward McCann visited The Ahwahnee® in 1997 as the hotel’s holiday decorations were being installed. The beauty of the hotel and its setting inspired Richard and Ed to propose: “Let’s redesign Christmas at The Ahwahnee.”
With the approval of concessioner DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc., Richard and Ed traveled the following spring from their home in New York’s Hudson Valley to the Yosemite Valley, returning to The Ahwahnee® to take the measurements, photographs and notes necessary to develop their strategy. Back in New York, the partners worked to create a cohesive, comprehensive design that would compliment the unique architecture and décor of the hotel, which remains the same as the day it opened in 1927. Richard chose materials native to California, and then scaled them appropriately to the architecture, such as brawny cedar garlands, accented with clusters of enormous sugar pinecones. He designed ornaments using California pepper berries, oak leaves and acorns, and even chose to mimic the colorful, distinctive geometric designs set into the hotel’s lobby floor.
Like the garlands that lead visitors to the hotel entrance, all the trees inside the hotel are now illuminated with LED lights, which use 98% less energy than incandescent lights, generate no heat, and allow up to eighty sets safely connected end to end. This year, the lobby tree is illuminated with twenty-two sets of 70 miniature white lights and eighteen sets of 25 multi-color C7 lights, for a total of 1,990 lights. The energy cost of burning 7,000 incandescent bulbs at The Ahwahnee® 24 hours a day for one month has been estimated at roughly $1,400; switching to LED lights drops that energy cost to a mere $93.
“In addition to saving energy, our goal was to create something rich, warm and traditional,” says Ed, “and something very specific to this setting.” Focusing on subtle details, Richard and Ed created a holiday design both simple and sophisticated, a design that reflects the spirit of Yosemite and the unique heritage of The Ahwahnee®.
The twelve-foot Lobby Christmas Tree at The Ahwahnee® wouldn’t look at home anywhere else. Richard and Ed replicated the geometric lobby floor designs on hand-made, decoupage wooden ornaments, and the tree’s dominant oak leaf and acorn motif pays homage to the original inhabitants of the Yosemite Valley, the Miwok Indians. Acorns were an important food staple for the Miwoks, who pounded them into a type of flour used to make porridge.
“It’s really a joy to work at The Ahwahnee,” says Richard, “and to have the freedom to create a holiday ambience that guests, visitors and employees respond to in such a direct and enthusiastic way. Ed and I have made good friends here; we’ve watched children grow, and we’ve become a small part of a very special community. Each time we return to the Ahwahnee feels like a homecoming.”
After ten years, the Ahwahnee’s® holiday décor is now a firmly established tradition. And like the hotel’s stencils, stained glass and metalwork, it feels as if it has simply always been.
DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc. is an ISO 14001 certified company, recognized throughout the hospitality industry as a leader in environmental stewardship. Its GreenPath environmental management program has received several government and independent agency awards, including the United States Department of the Interior’s 2003 Environmental Achievement Award for Waste Reduction, California Governor’s Award for Sustainable Practices, and the Travel Industry Association of America’s Odyssey Award.