Caitlyn Nichols contributed to this story.
Every night from now until New Year’s Day, people will be able to visit downtown Ogden’s Municipal Gardens to see colorful Christmas lights and a little themed village of cottages. However, Ogden’s annual Christmas Village looks a little different this year than in years past.
Usually the event gets started the Saturday after Thanksgiving with a holiday electric light parade through the gardens, ending with Santa Claus turning on the village lights and an opening gala with a firework show. However, this year all of those events were canceled and the village was merely opened the Friday night after Thanksgiving.
Ogden City Communications said visits with Santa in his castle, Mrs. Claus tours, the “I Spy” game in the cottages, stage entertainment, photo-ops, reindeer appearances, train rides, breakfast with Santa and hot chocolate booths will all be missing from the village this year as well.
Typically there are about 68 cottages in the village, but this year that number has been scaled back to 44 cottages to allow for adequate distancing.
Craig Bielik, vice chair of the Christmas Village Advisory Committee, said even though they’ve scaled back and limited the cottages they feel fortunate to be able to continue the village this year.
“Obviously we’d like this year to be a year just like any other year, but that’s just not realistic,” Bielik said. “The steps that we have taken are just to make sure everyone still has a great time and are still safe.”
Despite the changes, the Municipal Gardens will still be filled with lights and cottages decorated by locals and local businesses, including the “Where’s Waldo” cottage created by the Weber State University Alumni.
Other cottage themes include the “North Pole Theater” from Peery’s Egyptian Theatre, “Frosty’s Firehouse” from the Ogden Fire Department, “Santa’s Print Shop” from the Standard Examiner, “North Pole Express” from UTA and Mt. Ogden Business Unit and “An Early Pioneer Christmas” from Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
The event has worked with local artists to record holiday songs that will be played throughout the village.
The theme for the Christmas Village this year is “Gnome For The Holidays.”
Guests are asked to wear a mask while visiting Christmas Village, keep six feet of distance from other groups, refrain from touching the cottages and to wash their hands before and after visiting the village.
A virtual tour of the village, with pictures and details of each cottage, will also be available on Ogden city’s website. This service is available every year for those who can’t visit the village in-person. There, guests can also find a map of the village.
The Christmas Village has been an Ogden tradition since its beginning in 1962. Bielik said that he went to the village with his parents as a child, took his own children and is taking his grandchildren now. He said there are a lot of people in the area who could say the same thing.
Bielik said he’s glad they were able to make the changes necessary to continue with the tradition.
“We’re just very happy to be able to do the portion that we can,” Bielik said.
The Corner Kiosk will sell holiday hoodies with the theme “Gnome For The Holidays.” Mugs, glasses, cards and other hoodies will also be available for purchase.
Jeff and Beth Furton, owners of Daily Rise Coffee, are this year’s honorary mayors of the village. To celebrate they will be offering a special drink called “Christmas Village,” a Peppermint Eggnog Mocha with a dash of cinnamon, throughout the month of December.
Christmas Village will also host a silent auction, from Dec. 7 at 5 p.m. through Dec. 12 at 7 p.m., with various donated gift items and baskets. Details can be found at the Christmas Village page on Ogden City’s website, and donations are still being received. All funds from the auction go towards new displays, events and repairs.
Hot chocolate has been provided by the Ogden Breakfast Exchange Club in past years, proceeds of which go to Shoes for Tots, a program that provides shoes to Ogden/Weber school children in need. Even though the hot chocolate booths will not be available this year, the village is still encouraging guests to make donations to Shoes for Tots.