Love Is In The Air ... And The Mail ... In The Northern Colorado City Of Loveland

A special cancellation postmark is seen on a Valentine’s Day card in Loveland, Colo., on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. Every year, tens of thousands of people from around the world route their Valentine’s Day cards to the “Sweetheart City” to get an inscription and the coveted Loveland postmark. The re-mailing tradition has been going on for nearly 80 years and is the largest of its kind in the world. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)
A special cancellation postmark is seen on a Valentine’s Day card in Loveland, Colo., on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. Every year, tens of thousands of people from around the world route their Valentine’s Day cards to the “Sweetheart City” to get an inscription and the coveted Loveland postmark. The re-mailing tradition has been going on for nearly 80 years and is the largest of its kind in the world. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert)
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LOVELAND, Colo. (AP) — Wearing a red sweater with decorative hearts, 89-year-old Joyce Boston is back with a brigade of fellow volunteers in the “Sweetheart City” of northern Colorado to stamp a poem and postmark on Valentine’s Day cards –- just as she has done each year for nearly three decades.

Every year, tens of thousands of people from around the world route their Valentine’s Day cards to get Loveland's coveted postmark. The re-mailing tradition has been going on for nearly 80 years and is the largest of its kind in the world, said Mindy McCloughan, president and CEO of the Loveland Chamber of Commerce.

It’s like North Pole, Alaska, but for Valentine’s Day.

The U.S. Postal Service will put a North Pole, Alaska, postmark on Christmas cards. Valentine’s Day belongs to Loveland.

At its height, program volunteers processed more than 300,000 pieces of mail per year. That number dropped to 100,000 to 125,000 as people turned to email and social media messaging.

“Love is our message — Hearts are our brand. Happy Valentine’s Day from the City of LOVEland,” this year’s cachet reads in part.

Volunteers gather before the big day to stamp thousands of envelopes with the special postmark and cachet. Boston uses two hands to push down on the stamp as she looks down through her glasses, but she loves it as much as when she first started in 1997.

“What do I get out of it? Is a lot of new friends. Friendship. Spreading love. I love spreading love,” she said. ”And I love doing volunteer work. It keeps me, gives me a reason to keep living. Yeah. Keeps me young.”

The program receives mail from all 50 states and 110 countries.

“We've gotten letters from little girls sending their Valentines to their daddy in heaven with a note that just says, ‘Send it, we know he’ll get it,' ” McCloughan said.

Valentines are also stamped for people serving in the military and even for some well-known recipients.

“Dolly Parton got one this year,” she said.

In addition to the Valentine re-mailing program, Loveland holds a Sweetheart Festival, crowns a Miss Loveland Valentine and is decorated year-round with hearts attached to lampposts and featured in murals. The city about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Denver also has a large metal “Love” sign at the visitors' center, where people attach padlocks engraved with names and messages of love.

“In a time when there is such uncertainty in the world, what greater thing to do than to share love and compassion and hope with those around the world when it’s just time when it’s needed most?” McCloughan asked.