Teen carries on neighbors’ ribbon tradition

Leah Gates places red ribbons on the 41 trees that line her neighborhood to celebrate the holiday season. It is a tradition that has taken place for more than 20 years.



For more than 20 years, the trees that line north Fourth Street in Grand Junction have been decorated with red ribbons to celebrate the holiday season.

Those who live on the street aren’t sure when the uniform decorations began going up, but credit neighbor Cookie Emmons for starting the tradition.

She passed the duty on to Helen Alexander, who placed the ribbons on the trees for 18 years.

Now, it’s the job of 16-year-old Leah Gates, one of the few children who live on the street.

Most of the residents of Fourth Street are retirees who have lived in their homes for 40 to 50 years.

They recalled how the street used to be filled with the laughter of children playing in the safe and comfortable neighborhood, called the Bookcliff Subdivision, in the 1950s.

“I don’t mind. It’s really fun,” Gates said of her assigned job in the neighborhood.

Residents of the two-block area appreciate that Gates helps them carry on the red-ribbon tradition.

“We need to keep it because it’s an indication of the Christmas celebration, and it reminds us that it is Christ’s birthday,” said one neighbor.

In addition to the red ribbons, Gates places 41 American flags on the trees in the early morning of every federal holiday, then returns at 5 p.m. to take them all down.

“It’s patriotic, and it’s something to hold on to,” Alexander said of the flags.

Not only do the ribbons and flags mark important holidays, but they also form a strong perimeter around the neighborhood, marking a unified Neighborhood Watch program.

The Bookcliff Neighborhood Watch is coordinated by Fourth Street resident Major Margot Gates.

She keeps the neighbors informed through a newsletter and organizes events such as the National Night Out, which encourages neighbors to work with local police toward prevention of crime.

Traffic has increased in recent years because of the expansion of nearby St. Mary’s Hospital.

Because of the new activity, most residents in the neighborhood said it was more important than ever to keep strong relationships with their neighbors.

“We keep good communications with each other here, and we call each other if there’s ever an issue,” Alexander said, adding the neighborhood even employed a secret porch light code, where people flash their porch lights if they’re in trouble.

“It’s a beautiful neighborhood,” Alexander said, “because we watch out for each other here, look for things going on and really take care of each other.”


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