Home Features Community Small-town traditions kept alive with Ol’ Time Christmas

Small-town traditions kept alive with Ol’ Time Christmas

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Morgan’s Ol’ Time Christmas on Commercial celebration always feels like stepping back in time where friends and family all come out to enjoy the season together.  The street donned in lights and Christmas scenes playing out on business windows created the perfect setting for this holiday tradition.
Creating this wonderland takes a lot of volunteer hours from some rather dedicated residents and Morgan City employees.  Organizer Shayla Hurlbut, Verlene Johnson, Krista Johansen and Tiffany Ellis spent hours upon hours cleaning buildings and setting up displays in addition to their participation that day. Hurlbut conveyed her sincere appreciation for these ladies as well as the Morgan City employees who assisted with putting lights on the trees, setting up the new train display and moving box after box of supplies.
Johansen said, “I love the feeling of the event and the atmosphere.   It’s fun to walk in these beautiful old buildings and feel like you are stepping back in time. This event brings the community together and I love to witness joyful children taking a part of the festivities.”
The fun started as Santa arrived in his shiny red “sleigh,” or rather, fire truck, accompanied by Stacey Clarke as “The Grinch.” As Santa made his way to greet good little girls and boys and hear their Christmas wishes, the Grinch walked the streets spreading cheer and taking advantage of photo opportunities.  The Santa room was graciously maintained by Jo Burby and the Friends of the Library.
Jerry Pierce was the MC for this event, keeping the crowd informed and entertained while adding to the ambiance of the street. Other entertainers joined Pierce throughout the day including the Marcato Children’s Choir, Morgan Elementary fourth grade students, the MHS Ovation Choir and  the Morgan Valley Chamber Orchestra.
Morgan Valley Music Academy also opened their doors so that sightseers could enjoy indoor entertainment as well. Proprietor Miriam Jones said, “We had a great turn-out for our Ogden Area Trombone Choir. It was fun and festive and we had a great time.”
As children piled in to storefronts, you could see their eyes anxiously searching for the “Elf on the Shelf.” The goal is to find all 12 hiding Santa’s helpers throughout participating businesses on Commercial Street. Each child received a prize for their successful sleuthing. Thanks were expressed by many to the  Barr family who was responsible for helping each of Santa’s elves find their hiding place.
The miniature train rides were missing this year, but they were happily replaced with horse-drawn wagon rides generously provided by Morgan County’s own Hatcreek Outfitters.
Talented face painters including Emilie Henrie joined the crew again this year, painting everything from reindeer faces to scary spiders.  Each child was visibly excited about their unique choice of facial adornment. The little girls, and even some of the boys, were also thrilled to see that the Pretty in Pink Princesses had joined the fun, sending “Frozen” princesses Elsa and Anna to Commercial Street.
“My favorite thing was seeing the excited smiles on children’s faces as they experienced the fun on Commercial Street…from visiting Santa and the Grinch to the finale of the tree and train display lighting and fireworks,” exclaimed Hurlbut.
The old Buzzy’s cafe really came back to its original fervor as residents crowded the doorway. Instead of mothballs in the vacant building, the cafe was filled with the scents of freshly popped popcorn and gingerbread.
On one side of the building, Anne Allen, Stephanie Dickson, Spenser Johnson and Kaven Johansen served the waiting patrons free popcorn provided by Morgan City. Hot apple cider was also provided by Morgan Grace Fellowship. While sipping cider in the warmth of the old restaurant, you could also visit Julie and Dave Miller to fill out raffle tickets to support the Morgan County food bank’s Sub for Santa efforts.
On the other side of the building was the ever-anticipated gingerbread contest.  This event always brings out the creative side of Morgan residents young and old. This event is overseen by Clarke and Luci Fowers, who do an incredible job getting entries checked in and making sure little fingers stay off the fragile edible pieces.
First place winner in the family category, the Quinlan family said they were so surprised with the win. “I just wanted to do something fun with my granddaughter. She was excited to learn how to use a fork to make the frosting look like wood on the barn.” The Quinlans were “tickled pink” after hearing they had also taken the Mayor’s Choice prize. Second place went to the McGreer family and third place went to the Miller family.
Other winners included Krista Johansen placing first in the adult category and also taking People’s Choice honors for her “Frozen” themed house. Johansen said she was thankful to her husband Ryan who used his framing skills to assist her in creating this gingerbread piece.  The fondant covered wonderland was created with 10 pounds of marshmallow goodness, sugar pond and icicles and was sticky sweet all the way through.
Second place winner was Justin Andrews who placed for his intricately detailed tree house. Third place winner was Schery Walters with her gingerbread mansion that was adorned with individual almond slices on its enormous roof. Honorable Mention went to Jennifer Merrell’s adorable cabin in the woods.
There was only one entry in the 12-17 age group, but the gingerbread home made by Kymberly Vesper was worthy of the first prize given to it. Kids 1-6 winners were Cecilia Goodrich, Evelyn Merrell and Jaxon Johansen in first, second and third places with honorable mention going to Dallin Hill. 7-11 year old winners were Tessa Wolff, Jaren Johansen and Malia Wolff with honorable mentions going to Sariah Johansen, Brooklyn Hill and Austin Goodrich. All entries in the youth categories won prizes this year, as it was evident each child put much time and love into their creations.
Down the road in a beautiful building that has been boarded up for too many years were the kid’s games.  Johansen has had a busy few months with her gingerbread adventures, but still put in the time to make this part of the night a success, as she does every year.
Johansen said she especially wanted to thank all the youth who helped in the games area, which included members of the Morgan High School National Honor Society. “My family pitched in and helped so much, as well as KeriLynn Barr and her family and Tiffany Ellis, who stepped in and oversaw things so I could watch my kiddos perform,” said a grateful Johansen. “I love the generosity that is evident by volunteers giving of their time, business owners loaning buildings, young voices performing, gifts coming in for Sub for Santa, etc.”
Hurlbut wanted to publicly thank Bruce Brown, Jeff Matthews, William and Beverly Dahlquist, Tom Reinerth, Dan Goodrich and Clyde Willis for the use of their warm buildings.
At the end of the evening, winners of the raffle were announced as well as contest winners. Morgan Valley Crafts sponsored a coloring contest and announced their winners who included Laynie Stuart in the K-1st category, Gracie Giles in the 2nd-3rd and Korter Bailey for 4th-5th grades.  Makenna Lyman took home a Best Overall prize and Trevor Robinson received the Overall Favorite award.
Morgan City Fire Chief Dave Rich not only opened the event by chauffeuring Santa in on his fire truck, but he closed the event by lighting the magical firework display at the end.
“We couldn’t pull off this event without the helping hands of so many wonderful folks!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!” said Hurlbut.  Thanks also went out to Morgan City for their sponsorship of Ol’ Time Christmas on Commercial Street community event and for the new “Whimsical Train” light display.
“We hope to encourage any businesses or private individuals to consider donating an LED light display for next year’s lighting ceremony.  Signs can be provided announcing that the display was provided by that business or individual.  It would be great to see the entire Commercial Street fence-line draped with light displays for our community to enjoy,” posed Hurlbut.
If you are interested in being a part of the 2016 Christmas light display project, please contact Hurlbut at Morgan City.

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