In January 1947, members from the Ogden Chamber of Commerce, Weber State College and Boy Scouts of America decided to start the first annual “Spirit of the Pines” Festival. This was a way of utilizing all the old Christmas trees from around the city and producing an event that would symbolize change in the new year. The Boy Scouts gathered used Christmas trees from people’s lawns and dragged them to nearby parks or schools. The piles of trees were then picked up by Ogden City sanitation and brought to Affleck Park where the festival was held on January 10, 1947.
The program was set to start at 6:45 p.m. with 45 minutes of music and skits to be followed by the burning of the trees. The skit was putting characters of poor citizenship on trial. The characters included drunkenness, selfishness, ignorance, intolerance and crime; all were represented by dummies made by Mount Ogden Stake Primary classes. The characters were put on trial in front of Father Time, played by Dean Hurst. Father Time sentenced them to death by the flames of the hundreds of Christmas Trees. A strong armed Popeye threw each of the bad characters onto the flames to the cheers of the crowd 1,800 strong. Miss Utah Centennial outlined the ritual symbolizing the discarding of bad habits from the past year and the taking up of new good ones in the new year. This event was well received and the citizens of Ogden packed Affleck Park. The city continued the tradition until 1973.
In 1962, Ogden City attempted another community-wide effort with the first Christmas Village in Municipal Park. On the Friday after Thanksgiving in 1962, thousands lined Washington Boulevard in anticipation of seeing the holiday floats and Santa Claus. The parade began at 9 a.m. with floats going down the street and ending up in the park where they took their place in the first Christmas Village. The center of the village was the “Missile Tree”, where the Minuteman replica in the park was garlanded with streamers and over 8,000 lights. This celebration was the work of the Retail Merchants Committee headed by Jerry Green. The committee raised over $16,000 for the materials to build the village displays. Utah Power and Light provided all the power to the displays for no cost.
The opening of Christmas Village was witnessed by over 10,000 people. Marcia Newey, as the Snow Princess, turned on the lights in the park. This was followed by remarks by Jerry Green. He stated, “The village is something the children deserve and this is certainly an appropriate setting for the coming holiday season.” Over the next nine days, the village was visited by over 40,000 people. Men, women, and children alike lined up to visit Santa Claus’ castle, patterned after Sleeping Beauty’s in Disneyland, and to see the puppet shows put on by the ladies of the Junior League. Another major attraction was Santa’s Post Office that included a large mailbox for letters to Santa. The post office promised that any letters picked up from houses addressed to Santa would be delivered to Santa’s Post Office. The letters were given to local radio stations throughout the holidays to be read on air.
By the beginning of January 1963, there were over 100,000 visitors to Christmas Village. The displays attracted people from as far away as Maine, North Dakota, California and Illinois. Jerry Green remarked that one visitor even told him that the displays were “better than anything I’ve seen, including the elaborate decorations in San Diego’s Balboa Park.” Christmas Village has been such a success for Ogden that it will be celebrating it’s 57th year and it still delights the community both young and old.