Photograph by Ray J. Gadd/Limelight Hotel Ketchum

With Neighbors Like These…(We’d All Be Better Off!)

Words by Hollis Zimmer 

Limelight Hotel Ketchum Turns 5 With a Bang


There is always some trepidation when a big flashy neighbor moves to town. Brash colors and a big personality might cause you to cower in your corner. Then you get to know them and the judgments, eventually, melt away. That bigness extends into generosity, the unconventional colors become quirky and fun and what feels overwhelming at first becomes both familiar and welcoming. That’s what happened when Ketchum, Idaho’s “new” neighbor, The Limelight Hotel, showed up.  

Situated on the south side of town, at the “gateway to Ketchum, The Limelight Hotel Ketchum is visible right when you drive into town.  The Limelight beamed it’s big personality early on. While it was clearly a change from the old-school glamour vibe at the Sun Valley Lodge and sharp left turn from the rustic charm of The Pioneer, The Limelight has brought a much needed (and appreciated) shot of energy to the Sun Valley area. You could hear the groans of protest down the canyon when it was announced that an (gasp) Aspen Skiing Company hotel would be built here in our under-the-radar town. But like a sneaky leprechaun, The Limelight crept into the hearts of Ketchum. And here, five years into its residence, The Limelight has not only opened the hearts of the stoggiest of old timers, it has managed to weave its quirky edginess into the fabric of our town. And it did it through opening up its giant lime arms. 

The Limelight was the place Sun Valley/Ketchum didn’t know it needed. Meeting friends for cocktails prior to Limelight was tricky at times. There just wasn’t a space that had enough room for the random last-minute “actually, I CAN make it!” additions. It’s mountain living after all and we’re all just flying by the seat of our pants and day-of plans are the norm. Meeting for after-work get-togethers was especially tough if there were children in tow. Insert the great room of the hotel with its purple and lime pull up stools and ottomans and the parent’s dream-come-true of a hangout room for kids. Connected to the big room, but separate enough for parents to feel like they’ve had a night out, the kid’s hangout was complete with games and toys that bought parents a breather and allowed the kids to feel entertained. While the games and toys are now a victim of Covid mitigation protocols, the space still gives some relief to a social parent attempting to have an adult conversation. And when there is a band, lookout! Just make room for the toddler performing an interpretive dance. And where else can you nosh and give your dog belly rubs at the same time?  Besides being welcoming to dogs in the guest rooms of the hotel, the lobby allows well-behaved hounds to party with their humans in style. For some of us annoying people who take our dogs everywhere, this is the biggest selling point of all. Thus, the community living room at Limelight was born. 

But one of the ways Limelight has been a magnet for the community (besides the highly addictive crispy chicken sandwich) has been through its generosity and town-first approach. By hosting numerous gatherings for non-profits, Limelight seduced even the most diehard change opponents. Turns out, Limelight isn’t just a pretty (if bold) face. 

Limelight’s dedication to the community is clearly one of the top priorities of their business and credo. They hit the ground running when they opened the doors by establishing the Limelight Ketchum Community Fund which has already donated $123,000 to the community over the past five years. The employee-led board started by meeting with community leaders of local non-profits to gain insight into some of the serious issues that affect those in the Wood River Valley. They determined that the focus would be on organizations that provide critical help with mental health, domestic abuse, and education. The awarded grants are funded by a voluntary paycheck donation option and guests staying in the hotel have the opportunity to donate $1 a night towards the Fund. That money combined with the contributions from the business operations fund the grants that provide much needed income for these critical non-profits. The beneficiaries have included beloved Sun Valley area organizations like The Senior Connection, The Advocates, and Girls on the Run of the Wood River Valley.  

Photograph courtesy of Ray J. Gadd/Limelight Hotel Ketchum

And during Covid, the Fund stepped it up even more. They added to their regular grant giving cycle to address the critical impact that the non-profits were facing secondary to funding shortages and the increased demand on the need for their resources. When the hotel was able to reopen after quarantine, the Fund bestowed an extra $15,000 to local charities:  $5,000 to The Hunger Coalition, $5,000 to The Senior Connection Meals on Wheels Program, $2,500 to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), and $2,500 to the Advocates’ Crisis Hotline. Recognizing the need for help, the new kid on the block dove right in. Says Teresa Beahan Lipman, Executive Director, The Senior Connection, of the donation, “This is remarkable!! We made the decision to continue services with no lapse and no funding with the hopes and prayers for community and business support. Our organization does not have very deep pockets, so we have been funding our services week-by-week and month-by-month. We have grown 382% in two months, and this is much needed and greatly appreciated!  Bless everyone at The Limelight! They are such community players and we love them!”  In other words, they are the kind of neighbors you want to have. 

And it doesn’t even stop there. Not to be satisfied with just donating money, the Limelight team appears to seek new and creative ways to give. After five years of cradling the bottoms of Limelight’s best customers, the outdoor furniture was ready for new patios. When the new furniture arrived, the old furniture was donated to Camp Rainbow Gold, a camp for children and their families facing cancer. It might have been easy to just toss the old furniture into the dump or to sell it, but that is not how the minds of the Limelight team work. 

And while the Limelight seems intent on being a good neighbor through its generosity with the community at large, it hasn’t forgotten that the employees are part of that community. Part of being a good company is being a good employer. And the business owners of this valley have recognized the struggle for housing for employees. While the boom of Sun Valley has brought some vibrancy, it has also, clearly, exacerbated the pains of an ever-increasing housing crisis. Sky-high home prices and rents coupled with  a vastly limited supply of affordable housing have driven many workers away. But Limelight’s focus on giving back also includes the people that it employs. An investment in the people that make up the heart of its business is just, well, good business. The company bought a couple of properties (condo and mobile home) to house several employees. And they are now subsidising utilities and transportation for employees staying in three of the new Meadows tiny homes. Hopefully, the housing situation will improve for all in the valley, but in the meantime, Limelight is doing its best to take care of those who are essential to keeping its doors open. 

Photograph courtesy of Ray J. Gadd/Limelight Hotel Ketchum

And for five years, those doors have been wide open and welcoming. And since it appears they look for any opportunity to give back, Limelight is ready to celebrate its anniversary with the people who love it. Like stealthy secret Santas, Limelight folks will be sprinkling wooden coins around town that can be turned in for a free beer or wine in the lounge. Why wooden coins you ask? For those of you who forget anniversaries, wood is for five years! And, on top of those precious little wood coins, there will be special coins that offer bigger treats such as goggles, hats, and more. If you decide to check in for four days in January, they are giving you a fifth night free. Just because they like you. And for you locals, stick around at the end of the season for a special aprés ski party provided by our friendly green neighbor. They want to throw a humdinger to round out the anniversary celebration. But make sure you bring your proof of Covid vaccination or a negative test because you gotta be safe to party.  

Apparently, those Limelight people really get excited to make people happy. And while the word infectious is getting a bad rap these days, this is the kind of infection that everyone wants. It seems they are doing their best to spread it.