While most Utahns unleashed pent-up gusto on turkey, dressing and Grandma's pumpkin pie Thursday, a small army of Nordstrom employees probably dozed through Thanksgiving dinner.

Employees at all three Utah Nordstroms joined Nordstrom employees across the country Wednesday night in the annual, all-night frenzy to decorate the store. Nordstrom company policy forbids store employees to flaunt so much as a strand of tinsel before Thanksgiving."The Nordstrom family likes to make sure everyone stops to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families and don't rush Christmas," explained Cindy Richards, sales promotion director for the three Utah stores.

Yet, the company wants its stores in full festive attire for Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. In order to preserve the amber and rust of autumn right up until Thanksgiving and still be bursting with the red and gold of Christmas the following day, a specially trained troop of Nordstrom employees worked through the night Wednesday putting up decorations.

In the Salt Lake store, that meant hauling out 1,200 poinsettias, putting the finishing touches on 17 fresh pine trees, hanging 20 wreaths, arranging 20 boughs and checking 13,000 lights.

While most department stores across the country began putting up decorations right after Halloween so they could be completed the day after Thanksgiving, Nordstrom's strategy is to quietly lease space vacated by other stores. A few weeks before Thanksgiving, the space fills up with the trees, flowers, boughs and props to later deck the Nordstrom halls.

The downtown Nordstrom leased two empty stores, blocked them from the public eye and began filling them: one entirely with poinsettias and the other with props and trees. The store's display team worked in the dark, empty stores for weeks hammering props and hanging ornaments.

Then Wednesday at 9:15 p.m., 35 employees began hauling it all out and hanging it all up.

Fortified with a catered buffet, the team worked until dawn. Every year, the crew plans to be done by 4 a.m. "If we plug the trees in and all the lights go on . . ." display manager Randy Stevens said hopefully.

But they rarely do. Last year, the team left at 7 a.m.

"You leave blurry-eyed. But when you come in Friday morning, it's all worthwhile," Stevens said. "It's nice to hearing the employees oohing and aahing."

Nordstrom decorates around a different Christmas theme every year, a theme chosen by the corporate office. So even the employees are surprised by the results.

When they finished, they indulged in the sportive ritual that puts an exultant cap on the long night. They called the crews at other Nordstrom stores to taunt those not yet finished with a cheery goodnight.