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Downtown Salt Lake City offering more holiday fare

City Creek kicks off festivities; retailers have high hopes

Published: Friday, Nov. 16 2012 12:33 a.m. MST

Oscar Jensen admires some of the Christmas candy ornaments at Macy's during the City Creek Center holiday celebration Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012.

Ben Brewer, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — With the Christmas shopping season fast approaching, downtown Salt Lake City is gearing up for what is hoped will be a successful holiday retail season.

This week marks the beginning of the holiday festivities in the central business district. On Thursday, City Creek Center launched its inaugural holiday program, complete with lights, choreographed fountain displays and the arrival of the "jolly old elf" himself.

"We wanted to have a program that would respect the existing traditions but would also create new traditions for families," said City Creek general manager Linda Wardell. "Our objective was to create a program that would bring people here from all across the Intermountain West region."

City Creek Center now displays a 30-foot tall Christmas tree, interactive storybook lanterns, giant wreaths and live storytellers who will entertain visitors throughout the holidays.

Smiling parents and anxious children visiting the shopping center Thursday night packed the plaza around Santa's Lantern awaiting the arrival of the man in red. No one in the bustling crowd seemed bothered by the cold as they waited, snapping pictures and visiting with the elves, storybook characters and City Creek employees passing out light-up wands that would usher in Santa's arrival.

As the crowd cheered and chanted "Santa! Santa!" in unison, waving their flashing wands, Santa appeared, disappeared and reappeared overhead, following the flash of fireworks along the rooftop until he suddenly materialized on a platform above the plaza.

Seven-year-old Annselina Tuaefe of Salt Lake City said she could think of only one explanation for Santa's astounding feat: magic.

Annselina and her three brothers proudly showed off their wands, explaining how the lights helped guide Santa to Salt Lake City.

"The fireworks were blooming. … He was on the roof, and then he came over here," she said, pointing.

Wardell said Thursday's events at City Creek exceeded expectations as delighted visitors flocked in.

"We think today has been the start of a wonderful new tradition for our families and for all of our friends in downtown Salt Lake City," she said.

Macy's department store put a holiday sparkle on Main Street with the unveiling of its giant candy window displays Thursday night, reviving a downtown tradition. The candy statues depicted Santa, snowflakes and the Nutcracker, as well as Utah symbols of a beehive and a downtown snow globe.

Nathan and Nichelle Jensen said they were looking for the entertainment like Thursday's events when they chose to live downtown. The couple took their 2-year-old son to City Creek Center for Santa's arrival and to see the window displays, though the toddler was mildly distressed he wouldn't be allowed to sample the candy.

Starting Saturday, The Gateway will launch its holiday program featuring Kurt Bestor and songs by One Voice Children's Choir, as well as the "Starry, Starry Night" Light Spectacular, with more than 600,000 lights dancing to holiday music choreographed with the Olympic Legacy Fountain.

Shows will run nightly at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. from Nov. 18 to Jan. 1.

For traditionalists, Temple Square becomes a wonderland of festive lights and Nativity scenes beginning later this month. Visitors can enjoy the lights, watch the Christmas story unfold outside the South Visitor's Center or listen to local musicians perform.

From Nov. 26 to Dec. 31, the Christmas lights, displays and performances will begin on Temple Square with special activities and performances Dec. 29-31 to celebrate the new year. All "Christmas on Temple Square" events and activities are free.

With the opening of City Creek Center, economic expectations for downtown have also increased.

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