Pueblo's Nick Donovan partners with chamber to continue holiday scavenger hunt tradition

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Get your magnifying glasses and notepads out, Pueblo. You have a holiday pepper to hunt.

Technically, it's a large rock painted with a pepper, gingerbread man, and candy cane that Puebloans will be searching for in the first ever St. Nick’s Holiday Pepper Hunt.

The Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce and longtime local radio personality Nick Donovan teamed up for the scavenger hunt that’s packed with clues, many of which Puebloans will need to crack to find the branded item and reel in big cash prizes. The contest continues a decades-long tradition that Puebloans cherish each year.

The hunt began Monday with the first clue — "Don't ask your mother, don't ask your daughter, this year's chile is hidden near water" — revealed by Donovan on both the Visit Pueblo and local chamber's Facebook pages.

Duane Nava, president and CEO of the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce, told the Chieftain the chamber wanted to partner with Donovan for the contest to "bring our community together and give them a family fun activity for them to get out in our community."

Listeners have long associated Donovan with the contest. During his time at the KPHT 95.5 radio station, he ran the holiday scavenger hunt, known as the Jingle Bell Rock contest, for years and read off clues on the air. Earlier this year, he joined KDZA after departing KPHT, which is owned by iHeartRadio.

Puebloans can participate in the St. Nick's Holiday Pepper Hunt and search for this rock. The winner will secure more than $10,000 in cash and other big prizes.
Puebloans can participate in the St. Nick's Holiday Pepper Hunt and search for this rock. The winner will secure more than $10,000 in cash and other big prizes.

Donovan told the Chieftain that he filed to trade name the contest but that iHeartRadio trademarked it. KPHT is hosting the Jingle Bell Rock contest this year despite Donovan’s absence, though their version has received considerable pushback on social media. That contest is slated to start Dec. 20 and also offers cash prizes.

Donovan was approached by Nava about hosting a similar contest this year after seeing the community rally behind him. The pair first explored the possibility of introducing a pepper hunt during Pueblo’s Chile & Frijoles Festival, but later settled on offering the contest around Christmas.

They finalized that decision earlier this month, Nava said.

“It’s just a fun contest for Pueblo and I wanted to keep that tradition and keep it the same,” Donovan said. “It’s just a fun thing for Pueblo.”

The chamber has collected more than $10,000 in donations since it announced St. Nick’s Holiday Pepper Hunt and reached that mark in just four days, Nava said.

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“It’s amazing what Pueblo can do when we put our minds to it and what they’ll support when they believe in it,” Nava said. He said he's hopeful people will also support the dozens of businesses that have sponsored the contest.

The chamber and Donovan’s contest embodies much of the original. Clues will be posted to the Visit Pueblo and Greater Pueblo Chamber Facebook pages. Several select sponsor locations will participate in the hunt and serve as sites where people can obtain “exclusive” clues, Nava said. Participants must act fast, as clues posted to those social media pages won’t last more than a day.

Nick Donovan, host of 'Mornings with Nick' on KDZA, speaks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Pueblo Community College on August 17, 2023.
Nick Donovan, host of 'Mornings with Nick' on KDZA, speaks at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Pueblo Community College on August 17, 2023.

A winner will collect more than $10,000 in cash and prizes, while $5,000 will be donated to United Way of Pueblo County, Donovan’s nonprofit of choice. Sponsor and rules lists are available on Visit Pueblo’s website. It is free to participate.

“It’s a lot like the Bell Game or Cannon Game — it’s just a tradition that people have done for so many years,” Donovan said. “I looked for it when I was about 13 years old and so did other people and now they’re sharing it with their kids and grandkids. It’s a tradition, and Pueblo loves their traditions. This is one they don’t want to let go.”

The chamber provided an email and phone number — duanen@pueblochamber.net or 719-248-5165 — for people who want to donate to the contest or sponsor it.

Chieftain reporter Josue Perez can be reached at JHPerez@gannett.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, at @josuepwrites. Support local news, subscribe to The Pueblo Chieftain at subscribe.chieftain.com.

This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: St. Nick's Holiday Pepper Hunt continues storied Pueblo tradition