Light the Night: How South Jordan celebrated a socially distanced ChristmasJan 18, 2021 03:32PM ● By Mariden Williams
By Mariden Williams | [email protected]
As many residents make tough decisions about balancing holiday spirit with social distancing, it’s been hard not to feel low this season. But South Jordan officials found creative ways to convert their usual festivities into virtual events, helping to keep spirits bright.
Nov. 30 kicked off the event, with a drive-through holiday kit pickup for South Jordan residents. Even though the event was by necessity a lot less up-close and personal than usual—visitors had to remain inside their cars—people seemed to have a good time. Colorful characters such as Kristoff and Sven from "Frozen" and Jack Skellington from "The Nightmare Before Christmas" greeted cars from the sidelines, as did Santa and Mrs. Claus. Each car passenger received a cookie, a candy cane, prismatic glasses to view lights and an activity booklet.
"The turnout was amazing. There were a lot of people there," said South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey.
"I thought I'd be in line for a while,” said Councilman Jason McGuire. “But I was surprised at how fast things moved, and just appreciated how organized everything was. I was expecting something where basically we’d just pull up and leave; I wasn't expecting there to be a reindeer there. That was a great surprise."
From Nov. 30 through Dec. 6, residents participated in a remote GooseChase scavenger hunt by downloading an app. Participants were assigned various holiday-themed tasks to complete, such as coloring in certain pages from the free “Light the Night” activity booklet. Each completed activity earned the participants a chance to be randomly chosen for prizes.
Sitting on Santa’s lap is a bit tricky this year, so city officials also set up a way for kids anywhere in the state to write and receive letters to and from Santa, and to receive phone calls with Jingles the Elf to discuss whether they belonged on the naughty or nice list. So many people signed up that by the registration deadline, Jingles’ appointment schedule was almost completely booked up.
Town Center Drive spent the season bedecked in all sorts of lights and decorations, including a massive Christmas tree and sneaky hidden gnomes; residents who were able to find all 12 gnomes could claim prizes at the Gale Center. But the decorations that took the cake—for perhaps the candy—were eight giant window displays spread across the town center, featuring good-enough-to-eat holiday-themed sculptures made entirely out of candy.
The candy windows weren't the only sweet decorations this holiday season, though. Residents also participated in a gingerbread house contest hosted by the South Jordan Arts Council. Entries were displayed in City Hall from Nov. 1 through Dec. 10.
Some of the entries were spectacular, and all of them plainly had a lot of love put into them. “I’ll Huff and I’ll Puff” by Katherine Gomez, which took first place in the adults’ division, was an intricate diorama of the “Three Little Pigs” fairytale, with a chocolate wolf stalking through the ruined straw (wheat shreds) and wood (pretzel) houses to assault the fondant pigs in their sturdy brick/gingerbread house. Intricate white icing snowflakes swirled across Danielle Poulter’s entry; colorful flattened gummy candy served as a clever stand-in for stained glass windows in Jillian and Bryan Church’s gingerbread chapel. Perhaps most impressive of all was Kristi Burns’ towering candy replica of the famed St. Basil’s Cathedral, complete with nine sugar-glass domes, which puzzlingly won no awards.
South Jordan City Council members Patrick Harris and Brad Marlor served as the main judges for the event. In addition to their choices, residents were able to vote for People's Choice winners from Dec. 1 to Dec. 4.
"I'd be remiss if I didn't bring up all the time and effort that was clearly made by the residents to put those together and do things that normalize things in a not normal time,” Harris said. “So I appreciate all the efforts. We had some just fabulous gingerbread houses."
"I am amazed at the professionalism and sometimes just the outright fun that people had putting those together," Marlor said.