In 1971, a volunteer at Primary Children's Hospital went to Hawaii on vacation and visited a Christmas boutique featuring small decorated Christmas trees and other festive things.
An idea was born.
There were 60 trees at the first Festival of Trees the committee had decided to expand it to large trees, not just small ones which was held in the gymnasium of the old Armory on Sunnyside Avenue.
This year more than 700 elegant and original trees will decorate the halls of the South Towne Expo Center, as the Festival of Trees has grown into one of the premiere holiday events in the state, says Sharon Smith, co-chairman for publicity for this year's show.
The festival not only includes trees but also wreaths, gingerbread houses, a gift boutique, sweet rolls and hot scones, a Santa Land and so much more.
But what is exciting, says Smith, is not just how the festival has grown, but what the festival means to the community. "It is all done by volunteers, so every penny that is collected goes to the charity care program at the Primary Children's Medical Center," she says. "That charity care program belongs to the community, just as the festival belongs to the community. I can't say enough about the generosity and the talent of the community that makes it all happen. It's incredible."
There's no better way to get into the spirit of the holidays, she says. You can come and get great ideas, do some shopping, feel the excitement in the air and know that you are helping a good cause. "The festival is purely for children and families, and that's what the holidays are all about."
The Festival of Trees, which runs this week, is just one of many festivals and events around the state that generate holiday spirit, community involvement and, often, funds for good causes.
In Midway, for example, what began as an exhibit of Nativity sets from around the world nine years ago has grown into a three-pronged festival in the heart of the Wasatch Mountains.
The Interfaith Creche Exhibit will this year feature 900 different creches, ranging in size from one built on the head of a match (there will be a magnifying glass) to an 800-piece Fontanini Bethlehem scene. They are pretty sure it's the largest exhibit of its kind in the state, and maybe even the country, say Bill and Nancy Pekny, co-chairmen of the Midway festival.
In addition to the displays, there are crafts for children, marionettes and live music. "It's all very high quality and wonderful," says Nancy.
The second part of the fest is an old-fashioned Swiss Christmas. "It's my favorite," says Bill, "because it's an easy way for men like me to do one-stop Christmas shopping." The traditional town party features vendor and artisan booths, as well as food and fun and an appearance by Father and Mother Christmas, the Swiss counterparts to Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Cottages for Children, the third big event, will feature approximately 150 donated gingerbread houses that are displayed and then sold via silent auction to raise money for the Wasatch/Summit Counties Children's Justice Center.
The festival is a great way to get into the holiday mood, say the Peknys. "It combines everything," says Nancy. "There's the happy fun of the town celebration. The creches focus on the true meaning of Christmas. And the Cottages for Children are just that a way to help children who have been victims of abuse or trauma. It's all done in the tradition of giving."
Christmas takes a different turn at the American West Heritage Center in Wellsville. There, it's a reminder of how grandparents and great-grandparents might have celebrated the holiday, says Walter Yates, program coordinator at the center.
"Our 1917 farmhouse will be the focus for a lot of the activities. We'll have a tree decorated with typical ornaments. We'll have old-fashioned games to play. And we'll have hot wassail made from apples we've pressed."
Think what the world was like in 1917, Yates says. World War I was going on in Europe, so the world situation was kind of iffy. But there also had been a lot of technological developments that were starting to make life better. It was a happy time for families to gather then just as it is now.
The old-fashioned Christmas celebration will be capped off by a Victorian feast that will feature roast turkey and roast goose, as well as flaming plum pudding. There will be a Dr. Quackenbush show and a dance. Guests are invited to come in period costumes, if desired.
Another part of the Christmas celebration will be the second annual March of the Socks. The center has invited local artists to create Christmas stockings out of a variety of materials. They will be on display at a bed-and-breakfast in Logan, along with framed Western art, where bids will be taken in a silent auction. Winners will be announced at an invitation-only gala Saturday night.
Cache Valley and Northern Utah have "such a wonderful arts community, especially for Western art," says Carey Dufner, development coordinator at the center. "And they are so civic-minded and cultural-minded. They very generously donate their work."
Some of the socks have been painted on small canvas stockings supplied by the American West Heritage Center. "They are collectible, one-of-a-kind works of art," she says. But other stockings have been created out of leather, metal, wood and more." Last year, metal artist Joe Nelson, from Morgan, donated a welded stocking decorated with steel trim that weighed about 20 pounds.
This year they will have another metal piece from Nelson. Another unusual stocking is one by basketmaker Lisa Sparks.
They also have a number of quilted stockings donated by various quilt guilds in Cache Valley. "The guilds have just been wonderful," says Dufner.
Proceeds from the quilted stockings will support the American West Heritage Center's quilt fund; proceeds from the other socks will go to the general arts and exhibits fund.
One of the center's main goals is to promote the works of great artists, says program director David Sidwell. "Many local yet nationally renowned artists have drawn inspiration from the Heritage Center's lovely and rustic setting, its events, living history and other activities." These artists sell their works in galleries all over the country. "We want local residents to see their work at least on a stocking."From art to decor to tradition, magic and excitement whatever you are looking for in Christmas celebrations, you can find it throughout the month and throughout the state.
Wasatch Front and Wasatch Back
Festival of Trees
What: Primary Children's Medical Center benefit featuring trees, gift boutique, sweet shop, hall of wreaths and more.
Where: South Towne Expo Center, 9575 S. State
When: Nov. 28-Dec. 1; 10 a.m.-10 p.m.
How much: At the door: $4 adults; $2.50 children (2-11) and senior citizens; Wednesday is family day (six immediate family members admitted for $13)
Also: Discount tickets available at all Zions Bank branches
Holidays at Wheeler Farm
What: Santa, hayrides, lights and more.
Where: Wheeler Farm, 6351 S. 900 East
When: Through Dec. 22, closed Sundays
How much: $3
Web: www.wheelerfarm.com; 264-2441
Also: Dinner with Santa, Dec. 10; Breakfast with Santa Dec. 15 and 22; reservations required
What: Old Deseret Village takes on a holiday air in a celebration that looks back to the past. New this year: Journey of Light on the Candlelight Express.
When: Mondays-Thursdays 6-9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 6-10 p.m.; through Dec. 22
Where: This Is the Place Heritage Park
How much: $8 adults, $6 children
Information: 582-1847; www.thisistheplace.org
Joys of Christmas
What: Musical trios, stories, rhymes, a bell choir and refreshments celebrating the season.
When: Dec. 14, 11 a.m. or 1:30 p.m.
Where: Pioneer Memorial Museum, 300 N. Main
How much: Free
Information: " TARGET="_blank">www.dupinternational.org; 532-6479
Holiday Open House and Art Fair
What: Utah artists and craftsmen will present art for sale.
When: Dec. 1 and 2, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: Richard K. Hemingway Orangerie at Red Butte Garden, 300 Wakara Way
How much: Free
Also: Wreath-making workshops 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.; $60, registration required
Trees of Diversity
What: Exhibit of trees decorated in styles representing cultures from around the world.
When: Nov. 26-Jan. 3, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Where: Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 W. 3100 South, West Valley
How much: Free
What: More than 1 million lights and 150 lighted animated sculptures.
When: Dec. 1-31 (except Christmas Eve and Christmas night); Sundays through Thursdays, 4:30-8 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays 4:30-9p.m.
Where: Hogle Zoo, 2600 E. Sunnyside Ave.
How much: $6 adults, $4 children and seniors
Information: www.hoglezoo.org; 584-1729
Also: Lighting ceremony Dec. 1, 5:30 p.m.
Christmas Around the World Festival
What: A chance to glimpse various world cultures. Performers include the Swiss Chorus Edelweiss, Bingham Hill Bell Choir, Rusted Reed Irish Pipe Band, Zivio Balkan Folk Music and Dance, Utah'ko Triskalariak (Basque dancers) and more.
Where: Riverton Civic Center, 12830 S. Redwood Road
When: Dec. 5, 7-9 p.m.; Dec. 6 and 7, 6-9 p.m. Dec. 8, 1-7 p.m. followed by orchestra concert
How much: Free, although donations are accepted
Web: www.christmasaroundtheworldfestival.com; 232-9702
Holiday Lights at Thanksgiving Point
What: A feast for the eyes as you drive past holiday themes, including the Christmas story, displayed in lights.
When: Through Dec. 31, 6 -10 p.m. (Closed Sundays and Christmas Day.)
Where: Thanksgiving Point in Lehi
How much: $7 per car, $3 for wagon ride; trolley and carriage by reservation
Also: Breakfast with Santa, Dec. 1, 8, 15, 22, 9 a.m.; $18 adults, $12 children; at the Show Barn
Festival of Lights, Spanish Fork
What: A drive-through wonderland of lights complete with animated structures. Some of the displays are new this year. A land of enchantment for children. New this year: hayrides on the weekends for groups.
When: Through New Year's Day, 6-10 p.m.
Where: Canyon View Park (From I-15 take U.S. 6 east toward Price approximately 4 1/2 miles. Turn right at the Little Acorn Drive-In.)
How much: $5 per car; $15 large passenger van; pay at the gate
Information and booking hayride: 798-5068 ($40 for up to 20 people)
Pond Town Christmas Lighting
What: Christmas trees made of lights float in Salem Pond.
Where: 150 W. 300 South, Salem
When: Nov. 23-New Year's Day, 5:30-11 p.m.
How much: Free
Prehistoric Old-Fashioned Christmas
What: Holiday lights, entertainment, family activities and s'mores cooked in a fire pit.
When: Dec. 1, 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 7-9 p.m.
Where: George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park, Ogden
How much: $4 children; $6 adults; $5 seniors
A Christmas of Crafts, Creches and Cottages
A Christmas celebration in the Wasatch Mountains, anchored by three major events:
What: Interfaith Creche Exhibit features 900 Nativity scenes from around the world, a Fontanini Bethlehem scene, live music, children's activity room.
Where: 165 N. Center, Midway
When: Nov. 30-Dec. 3, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
How much: Free
What: Swiss Christmas, an old-fashioned community celebration with gift booths, artisans, strolling carolers, children dancing and more; Father and Mother Christmas (noon-2 p.m.).
When: Nov. 30-Dec. 1, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Where: Midway Town Hall, 125 W. Main
How much: Free
Information: midwaychristmas.com, 435-654-4178
Also: Father and Mother Christmas will be on hand to visit with children Dec. 2, 12 noon-2 p.m.
What: Cottages for Children Gingerbread Display and Auction, with proceeds going to the Children's Justice Center in Wasatch and Summit counties.
When: Nov. 30, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Dec. 1, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Concludes with silent auction at 6 p.m. on Dec. 1
Where: 135 W. Main, Midway
How much: Free
What: A magical journey aboard the Heber Valley Railroad inspired by the book by Chris Van Allsburg. Enjoy hot cocoa, cookies and a special treat from Santa for those who believe. Reservations strongly recommended.
When: Through Dec. 22; 5 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. (No trains on Sundays.)
Where: 450 S. 600 West, Heber
How much: adult, $28-32, children 3-12, $17-$21, seniors, $25-$29
Information: www.hebervalleyrr.org or 435-654-5601; tickets at Smith's Tix or 800-888-8499
Around the state
Holiday Home Show
What: Tour Spring City homes beautifully decorated for the holidays, many of which are restored pioneer homes. Proceeds benefit Sanpete Valley Hospital.
Where: Spring City
When: Dec. 1, 1-7 p.m.
How much: $5 in advance, $7 day of the event
Trees for Charity Auction
What: Decorated Christmas trees are auctioned off to benefit charities.
Where: Western Park, 300 E. 200 South, Vernal
When: Nov. 26
How much: $15 at the door
Contact: www.vernalchamber.com; 435-789-1352
Christmas Town Festival
What: Electric Light Parade (8 p.m. each night, Helper Main Street), chili dinner (4-7 p.m., Helper Civic Auditorium), Christmas variety show at the Rio Theater (5:30 p.m.), fireworks Saturday night following the parade.
When: Dec. 7 and 8
How much: Nominal charge for chili dinner
Tuacahn's Festival of Lights
What: The desert near Ivins comes alive with lights on buildings, trees and bushes; live Nativity at 7 and 8 p.m.; music on the plaza; backstage train ride on Old Salty Train.
When: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays, through Dec. 23; 6-9:30 p.m.
How much: Live Nativity, $2; train ride, $1; other activities free
Electric Light Parade
What: Lighted floats travel along Main Street
When: Dec. 1, 6 p.m.
How much: Free
March of Socks
What: Exhibit and silent auction of painted, quilted, welded, carved and other crafty Christmas stockings.
Where: Riter Mansion, 168 N. 100 East, Logan
When: Nov. 30, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Dec. 1, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
How much: Free
What: Variety of holiday activities for young and old, a visit from Father Christmas, old-fashioned toys and games; nonstop entertainment.
Where: American West Heritage Center, 4025 S. Highway 89-91, Wellsville
When: Dec. 1, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
How much: Free with can of food donation for food bank
Also: Victorian Christmas FeastCompiled by Carma Wadley