Holiday Traditions at City Creek: Keeping the Magic Alive

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Macys located in downtown Salt Lake City on Friday, November 18, 2016

City Creek presented its annual night of festivities to kick off the holiday season earlier this month.

First on the agenda was the fifth annual official unveiling of the Macy’s candy window displays. Preceding the ceremony, Macy’s held a variety of events for kids around their store, a product of Macy’s partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Shama Dhanecha, vice president store manager for Macy’s at City Creek, said the partnership was about putting together a “magical moment all about family” for the local community. The partnership is titled “Believe” and includes a charity drive called the Santa Project. For every letter mailed to Santa through any of their locations, nationwide, Macy’s will donate $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This annual partnership drive runs until Christmas.

Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Utah CEO, Jared Perry, and three “wish-kids” assisted the opening of the displays: Sammy, aged seven, and Shaney and Eli both nine years old.

Christmas tracks played over the crowd of hundreds that extended along the entire block. The DJ was not the only musical entertainment, however. An a cappella quartet, FOG, performed at the unveiling, singing eclectic adaptations of popular Christmas carols. Davis High School’s marching band, which will be returning for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade next year, also performed.

There were six brilliant artists who designed and created this year’s window displays.

“Every year, the displays are made of candy but the theme changes from year to year,” Dhanecha said. This year, the store celebrated Sinclair Oil Corporation’s centennial anniversary by putting up dinosaur-themed candy displays. A Sinclair dinosaur mascot attended the festivities to add even more fun to the evening.

The annual unveiling and other holiday kickoff events yield a lot of families looking to celebrate the holiday season in kid-friendly ways.

“We try to come every year,” said Lauren and Steve, a couple with two young boys. “It’s just an awesome, fun thing for kids and it’s early enough to get them home before bedtime. And the kids love it.”

The Christmas-focused holiday spirit could be felt all throughout the mall. Elves performed magic tricks to small crowds. Lights and lanterns decorated the entirety of the mall. Kiosk displays scattered around the mall told classic Christmas tales like Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and “The Nutcracker.”

“It’s a lot of fun just to see [the night] unfold and everyone so happy,” said Danny, a City Creek security guard who has worked this event for the past two years. “It’s a great escape.”

Thousands of glow sticks were handed out to children and families among the gathering crowd in the courtyard by Santa’s lantern. The tightly-packed crowd sang carols, led by two of Santa’s elves.

Colorful lights began flashing and the elves signaled to the crowd to raise their glow sticks.

It was 7 p.m. and time for Santa to arrive.

He appeared on top of roofs and the crowd chanted “Santa” as fireworks went off and red and green confetti fell around him until he finally reached his elves. Together, they opened the lantern and, “ho ho ho-ing” all the way, Santa kicked off the start of Cherry Hill Photography’s Photos with Santa season.

On average, this part of City Creek’s festivities gathers a crowd of around 3,000, reported Rebekah, manager of Cherry Hill Photography at City Creek.

According to Rebekah, they take their Santa business very seriously. “Every mall has an out-of-state Santa and Mrs. Claus. They train for years to be the perfect Santa … because it really matters for the kids.”

Santa is available for pictures all hours of every day the mall is open up until Christmas. Patrons get to register for a time slot with Santa, so they can skip the long lines and plan Santa into their schedules.

All the increased traffic around the mall, far from causing problems with the stores, actually benefits some of the shops inside.

“We get a ton more traffic and business spikes whenever this happens,” reported John, the store manager at Go! Games and Toys. “This is the week our sales start increasing for the holiday season.”

Not every business benefits financially from the holiday kickoff event, however. Even so, most stores contribute in some way or another to the Christmas spirit.

For example, every year, Brooks Brothers hosts a donation drive for St. Jude’s at every location, nationwide. “It’s just the season for these things,” explained Scott, the assistant manager for Brooks Brothers at City Creek. Their drive runs from the middle of November until shortly after Christmas.

Kay Jewelers also hosts a donation drive for St. Jude’s every year, independent from Brooks Brothers. Mick, the store manager for Kay Jewelers reported that the drive starts in October and runs until Christmas every year. “When it comes down to it, it’s really about the kids,” said Mick, “and we love to be a part of making that kind of a difference.”

These events continued throughout the night with a live performance by Ballet West in one of the fountain courtyards. Nine youth dancers performed excerpts from their upcoming performance of “The Nutcracker.” This year will the 61st consecutive performance of that Christmas classic here in Utah. The show will open Dec. 2 and will run until Dec. 26 at the Capitol Theatre.

Following the dancers, City Creek finished the night with a grand tradition: the Holiday Fountain Shows, hosted this year by America First Credit Union. The Shows are renowned for their fascinating fire displays. Set to classic carols and hit singles from Dean Martin and Michael Buble to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the 40-foot blasts of water and vibrant orange flames dazzled the crowd.

“The ultimate goal is always to entertain the kids,” reported a member of the lighting and production team for the show. The lighting and sound are all designed to optimize the audience’s enjoyment and hold their attention.

“It’s a community project … City Creek integrates vendors from the area to come together and create this [show] for the city,” the lighting and production team member said. “City Creek does it right.”

m.murri@dailyutahchronicle.com

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