With the holiday season fast approaching, Sandy City employees are getting ready to decorate City Hall, which includes dusting off and setting up an elaborate, miniature train and village display.
Sandy residents are invited to come see the train display at City Hall, 10000 South Centennial Parkway, throughout the month of December during office hours, which are every weekday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
When the employees at Sandy City Hall first moved into their current headquarters about 20 years ago, they decided to try and start a new Christmas tradition. So, in 1994, they set up a large Christmas tree in the atrium, strung lights through the trees outside and set up an old-fashioned train display.
“We had people in Community Development, or something, who had this little village that was just set up on a table. They brought it in and set it up, and it was just kind of cute. Then it just kind of built onto that to become what it is now,” Community Events Marketing Manager Steven Ireland said.
In the early years of the train display, the different departments within City Hall would alternate planning and setting it up. Now, the Community Events department mainly handles the project, but other employees are allowed to put any ideas forward.
“This time of year, since we’re not doing the amphitheater stuff, our department is not as busy,” Ireland said.
At the beginning of November, Ireland gets together with Sandy Event Coordinator Kristy Pace to brainstorm ideas about how they want the village laid out. They choose a certain shape, and then they recruit help from Sandy City’s facilities manager and staff.
Together, they retrieve all the train and village pieces from a storage unit at the Sandy City Public Works Department and bring it all back to City Hall. Then, the facilities manager helps build a base to put the display on. (Because the shape changes every year, they have to build a new base every year.)
Next, they usually build a paper mache mountain to really set the scene and sort of resemble Utah’s famous scenery. However, this year Ireland and Pace have decided to try something different.
“I think what we’re going to do this year… is we’re not going to create the mountain this year. Instead, we might do a backdrop of some sort, like a sky or scenic type of backdrop with stars and snow flakes,” Ireland said.
Then the time-consuming process of setting everything up begins.
“It takes about two weeks for us to get everything set up,” Ireland said.
“But we’re not working on it all day. We probably do three or four hours a day, and there are usually two of us working on it,” Pace said.
The train that circles around the village has five cars and is called the Santa Train Express; it lights up and makes noise. Pace and Ireland estimated that they probably have more than 250 pieces for the village display now, which includes buildings, people, benches, trees, animals, cars and lamp posts.
“This village is now worth thousands of dollars because we try to add to it every year,” Ireland said.
Some of the pieces in the Christmas village were bought by the city, and some were actually donated.
To give a shout out to Sandy City’s yearly hot air balloon festival, the city purchased two ceramic hot air balloons to fly over the miniature village. These miniature pieces are pretty expensive. Last year, Ireland and Pace found a Ferris wheel online, but couldn’t afford it.
“Last year, we found online a Ferris wheel piece that had been discontinued—they weren’t making it anymore. We found it on Ebay, and Scheel’s bought it for us because they’ve got that big Ferris wheel in their store. It’s so cute,” Pace said.
“And it moves, lights up and plays music,” Ireland said.
About five years ago, somebody anonymously donated three Disney-themed pieces to the display. They included the three little pigs at a bakery, Goofy skiing and Donald Duck at a toyshop.
“These are not cheap. Three pieces doesn’t seem like much, but these are like $150 apiece,” Pace said.
This year, as children come to view the display, they can also try their hand at a village quiz. They will have to count certain things, and, once they have the totals, they can hand in their completed quiz to receive a candy cane.
“People don’t normally get a chance to come to City Hall . . . Our house is your house,” Pace said.
They are also planning on decorating City Hall with hundreds of poinsettias and garlands wrapped around each handrail.
“It is very pretty [inside and out] with all the different colors. . . We’re not trying to rival Temple Square, but there are still a lot of lights outside,” Ireland said.