ESTES PARK - When the Big Thompson River swelled over its banks, it did more than damage buildings and homes. It left the tourist town of Estes Park virtually inaccessible for six weeks. Now that the roads are back, businesses hope people will return for the holidays.
"Obviously, when Highway 36 opened it improved dramatically," Kathleen George, business owner, said. "This week, we were fortunate enough to get Highway 34 opened."
George owns a store called Rustic Mountain Charm. She says for six weeks from the flood in September through the entire month of October, business in Estes Park stopped.
"Our customer base was cut off from our town," George said.
The roads were too heavily damaged for cars until the past few weeks. Saturday, the town held its annual Tree Lighting Ceremony to kick off the holiday season. George hopes this will spur a renewed interest from people along the Front Range to come back to Estes Park.
"The days preceding Thanksgiving and the days following are critical," George said. "The next weeks are important absolutely."
For some businesses, it's already too late. Several store fronts are vacant after businesses couldn't withstand the financial strain. George says there's more closed stores this year than normal.
Mike Ventura is visiting Estes Park from Denver. He likes that more people are starting to come back to the mountain town.
"It's really good that people have made the trek up here to try to support the businesses," Ventura said. "I know at all times now, this is when they really need it the most."
The Friday after Thanksgiving is the annual Christmas parade in Estes Park.
"That's typically attended by 20-to-25 thousand people," George said. "So, having the highways open for that is critical."
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