“I felt like it was one of those small towns off of an old Christmas movie,” Sunni Heywood said of last weekend’s Ol’ Time Christmas celebration on Commercial Street. While our beloved Front Street has actually been the scene of several movie sets, our Christmas celebration was better than any script. It brought together friends and family to enjoy the season together. We are lucky to live in one of the places people dream about.
In its third year, Ol’ Time Christmas is growing. Saturday’s event brought nearly 1,000 people together. “I was very pleased,” Shelly Betz, event organizer said. The attendance rose in spite of the cold temperatures.
Over 200 children were thrilled to play winter themed games like ring the elf hat, ice fishing, and elf toss. A favorite with kids of all ages was the snowball catapult. Krista and Ryan Johansen constructed the catapult complete with a Santa hat to cover the catapult. Johansen, who was the committee member over kids’ games, added her artistic touch all around the room.
Around 30 volunteers were needed to help run the nine games and a craft. Youth from local wards, the high school service club and other youth and adults volunteered. “It was fun helping out with it,” Johansen said. “I would encourage others to volunteer when they can.”
Just outside the kids’ games a constant line of eager children waited for their turn to see Santa Claus after his annual grand entrance on the fire engine. Some with lists in their hands and some with lists in their heads approached the jolly old man who took the time to speak with each of the children about their wishes for Christmas gifts.
Around 40 children completed the elf on the shelf activity set up by Julie Anderson. The goal was to find all 12 hiding Santa’s helpers throughout the buildings on Commercial Street. Each was able to receive a prize for their skills and determination in elf seeking.
While the children enjoyed these activities, as well as train rides at the opposite end of the street, many of them had makeovers provided by face painters. These talented artists painted glittery snowflakes, Santa’s hats, reindeer, characters from Nightmare before Christmas and other winter and Christmas scenes on little faces. Tinsel was tied in hair for even more festive flare.
Stacy Lafitte set up a full afternoon of entertainment. The main level of the Valais Hotel donned in holiday decor allowed guests to enjoy the live entertainment. Morgan Academy of Dance took the stage in their old home. The fourth grade provided music, which brought in big crowds as always. “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” was performed on the stage with a very talented cast. Bob Peterson is famous for his voice and is perfectly suited for singing the low notes from this musical. The Grinch wandered our Commercial Street event spreading smiles and cheer after learning the true meaning of Christmas. Street carolers preformed fun Christmas numbers and were coordinated by Wendy Nelson, who donned a traditional caroling outfit.
Lucky for us, none of the amazing decorations were stolen by the green foe. Lisa Wilson was in charge of the decorations and spent hours on end with her fellow committee members completely dressing our street in its festive best. Tiffany Ellis provided signs and artwork. Each of the buildings were well decorated and easy to find.
The old Buzzy’s Café was buzzing with residents coming in to view the amazing gingerbread entries. Jennifer Vesper, who recently placed second in a statewide gingerbread competition, organized the gingerbread house contest. Vesper welcomed visitors to the gingerbread shop, handing them cards to vote on their favorite entry. Each entry was given a number at check-in to keep the voting anonymous and fair. The People’s Choice category was new this year and Vesper said it was a hit. “The kids really loved that they got to pick their favorite. They really enjoyed it.”
Ashley Barber coordinated a Christmas boutique filled with local vendors and crafters. Customers were able to check items off their shopping list, purchasing unique crafted items from 27 different vendors. Originally the boutique was to be held in one of the vacant buildings, however, a last minute change required them to rent a heated tent. Betz found this to be a big asset to the event. With the record number of attendees, she found it helped ease the congestion by spreading across the street. The big tents stretching down the blocked off street drew attention to the celebration.
Another tent was set up with free hot cocoa provided by Larry Wiggle and the Spring Chicken Inn and free popcorn provided by Ace Hardware. The warm drink and salty snack were appreciated. Jo Burby and the friends of the library served these treats, as well as volunteered to be Santa’s little helpers. Jerry Peirce provided the sound system and announced the event with the voice we have come to recognize from most of Morgan’s major events. The community appreciates these local businesses that care about our community and are always willing to give.
As more businesses move to Commercial Street, more of the activities will be moved outside and into tents. “Our goal is to have all of the businesses filled,” Betz explained. “Soon the whole event will be out on the street.”
There was a lot of planning and preparing to pull off such a big event in such a fun way. In addition to their individual assignments, they also prepared the buildings. They swept, mopped, and cleaned bathrooms that haven’t been used in years. “They did this because they love their community.” Betz said of the committee. “They love to serve.” She would like to give a big thank you to everyone who helped make Ol’ Time Christmas so wonderful.
This is now a tradition we all look forward to each year and big thanks go out to Shelly Betz and her entire committee as well as the city council for being so supportive of the event.