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A rendering of Denver’s new Mile High Tree. The official lighting is at 5 p.m. Saturday, and the tree will stay up through Jan. 31.

If you’re one to avoid the drive to Denver at all costs, the inaugural year of the city’s Mile High Tree is worth getting out of your comfort zone.

Standing 110 feet high and 39 feet in diameter in Sculpture Park at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the enormous art installation is the largest of its kind in the U.S. Seven stories high, it’s adorned with 60,000 LED pixel technology lights. Every 30 minutes, the tree blooms into a light show, with the lighting choreographed to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other holiday songs. In between shows, visitors can hear the classical sounds of the Colorado Symphony. It’s a spectacle Denver hopes will attract hordes of holiday lovers.

“We’ve had Mile High Holidays for many years,” said Jayne Buck, vice president of tourism for the nonprofit Visit Denver, about the annual push to get tourists and locals to take part in holiday activities around the metro area. “We decided to add a new free attraction. The idea came from trying to enhance the appeal of Denver for the holidays.”

This isn’t only a piece of art to sit and gawk at, though you’ll certainly do that, especially since it promises to be visible from Speer Boulevard. But you can also explore the tree’s innards. Up to 140 visitors at a time will be able to enter the structure, and when they do, Buck strongly recommends they tilt their heads and look up.

“It’s an immersive experience in the sense that there’s an entrance and an exit,” she said. “It’s a beautiful display that’s different than what you see outside.”

The tree was created by ILMEX Illumination, a renowned decorative lighting production company in Spain, and Brut Deluxe, a Madrid-based company, concocted the lighting design.

The first official lighting of the tree is at 5 p.m. Saturday, and will feature Lark, the University of Colorado Denver’s all-female a capella group, at 4:30 p.m. Alcoholic and nonalcoholic drink and treat stations will also be on hand.

A few special events will be offered tree-side throughout December. A Princess Meet and Greet night will offer photo opportunities with princesses and a prince on Dec. 8. Dec. 22 is a Dog Meet and Greet with Santa, and a Kwanzaa celebration is Dec. 26. Every Thursday night is date night, with drink specials at the two pop-up bars situated around the tree.

They’ll leave the lights on for you through Jan. 31, though starting Jan. 2, the programming of the lights and music show will shift away from holiday tunes to music by Denver and Colorado musicians, as well as music inspired by the National Western Stock Show, which runs Jan. 11-26.

Contact the writer: 636-0270

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