Whatever happened to Christmas Town, USA?

A move to remake the eastern Idaho town of Ashton with a North Pole or Bavarian motif has stalled since its inception a year or two ago. The remake, proponents said, would help townspeople tap the rich vein of tourist traffic to Yellowstone National Park on U.S. 20.The goal was economic well-being, the best gift Santa could deliver to a town on hard times. It was a bold proposal. But it never got off the ground.

So Ott's Place, a Main Street bar, is not decked out as "The Nose Glows," the name given it in a sketch of how Christmas Town might look. Stoddard's Department Store was not renamed "Kris Kringle's Klothes." No "Snowball Express" runs on tracks at the edge of town.

The town of 1,200 remains dominated by towering grain elevators, not souvenir shops.

Ashton dropped the theme after a debate that was not always in keeping with the Christmas spirit.

Some opponents wanted a theme with more year-round appeal, something more reflective of Ashton's Western character. Some opposed the commercialization of Christmas. Others did not want a theme with religious underpinnings.

"There was so much opposition from the town that we just dropped the idea," said David Krueger, a businessman who headed the Share The Ashton Redevelopment Committee. The group explored various themes but settled on Christmas Town, USA, as the theme that would draw the most tourists.

"It went right down the tubes, where it belongs," another local businessman said.

The notion of giving Ashton a facelift along any particular theme barely has life, it seems.