With Christ-centered focus, Holiday Festival to be 'better than ever'

Friday , November 25, 2016 - 12:45 PM

JANAE FRANCIS, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — The Weber County Holiday Festival is more centered on the Nativity than ever before, organizers said.

“This year, we have really tried to bring Christ back into Christmas,” Kevin Bailey, director of the Weber County Holiday Festival, said. “You’ll see baby Jesus from all over the world, plus the live Nativity is one of those family traditions you just don’t want to miss.” 

Standard-Examiner subscribers get an early sneak peek of the Holiday Festival from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 1, at the Golden Spike Event Center, 1000 North 1200 West in Ogden. The festival is open for everyone from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 2-6.

The event will include live musical performances, activities for families and a bearded Santa. Attendees can donate new, unwrapped items for families in need.

“We have made every effort to create an event that the community will count on as one of their Christmas traditions,” Bailey said. 

Organizers put in additional bleachers for the live Nativity, as it is one of the event’s biggest draws.

The live Nativity is organized by the Hunt family, who bring in animals and cast family and friends in the traditional Nativity roles. The Hunts have spent 39 years honing their Nativity portrayal. The event was originally hosted in the front yards of family homes in Roy, West Point and West Haven. 

The family joined the Holiday Festival two years ago when Tammy Hunt, who was then overseeing the tradition, moved from West Haven to Diamond Valley, Utah.

Tammy Hunt’s children were not in the position to take over the live Nativity at their homes, and were asked to join the Holiday Festival by event organizers. Bailey said organizers wanted the Hunt family to join the festival because they liked the professionalism of their tradition and the popularity they had enjoyed among area residents.

Tammy Hunt has participated each year since the live Nativity started. She and her husband sat down with the festival organizers, they had a good feeling and vision for the move. The couple still is overseeing the activity, which involves bringing in animals owned by family and friends. Family members and friends also play roles in the Nativity portrayal.

“That same year, we lost our son,” she said. “That changed a lot of things in our lives. My son was a true advocate for the pageant. He had a special love for it. I think he would be really pleased with the things that have happened and the amount of people we’ve been able to share it with.”

Hunt said joining the Holiday Festival allowed the event to reach thousands more people. 

“The move afforded us the opportunity to accommodate large crowds, better seating, better parking, and better accessibility,” Hunt said. “And we do it more nights.”

Over the course of last year’s Holiday Festival, 22,000 people saw the live Nativity, she said. 

“That was my mother-in-law’s dream, to touch as many hearts as she could,” Tammy Hunt said. “Her dream was to teach her family that there was more to Christmas than being crazy and getting the best deals. She wanted people to step back, take a deep breath and witness what it’s really all about.”

Hunt said the simplicity of the live Nativity makes it beautiful.

“We try to present it in the best possible way, in a way that is intimate for people,” she said. “We want people to be up close and personal and to feel it like they are really there.”

The live Nativity will be performed at 6 p.m and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 1 for newspaper subscribers, and at 6:30 p.m., 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2-6.

You can reach reporter JaNae Francis at 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or like her on Facebook.

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