Weber County's Holiday Festival canceled this year

Wednesday , November 22, 2017 - 5:00 AM

ANDREAS RIVERA/Standard-Examiner staff

A Nativity made from a tin drum from the Caribbean is one of a thousand collected by Ilene Hoffmann, who displayed the collection at the Weber County Holiday Festival in past years.

JANAE FRANCIS, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — A Weber County holiday event that grew to attract more than 20,000 visitors a year has been canceled for 2017.

The Weber County Holiday Festival displayed thousands of Nativities and exhibits of various holiday traditions at the Golden Spike Event Center. The event would have taken place next week.

“The county made a decision to no longer sponsor the Weber County Holiday Festival,” said Kevin Bailey of Pleasant View, the former director of the festival. “The new county leadership and lack of support from the new leadership caused us to fold.”

Concerned over a perceived mixing of secular and religious programming, Bailey said county officials asked his organization to privatize and members of the committee could not recover in time for this year’s festival.

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

Having to purchase liability insurance and rent the event center would have cost the committee many thousands of dollars, Bailey said. Also detrimental, he said, was a loss of sponsors who dropped out because the committee could no longer benefit from the county’s nonprofit status.

“It’s a shame it is going away,” Bailey said. “We are going to find a way to bring it back. ... When we do, we promise it will be bigger and better than before.”

Duncan Olsen, director of the Golden Spike Event Center, said they hope to bring it back next year.

Volunteers started the event 12 years ago in a Pleasant View building of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The festival grew in popularity over the last four years as it received county sponsorship and was hosted by the Golden Spike Event Center.

While Golden Spike was not in charge of the festival, Olsen said he was aware of restructuring activities of the committee that ran the event.

One popular aspect of past festivals — a live Nativity — will still happen this year and is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. daily Dec. 20-23 at the Golden Spike Event Center, located at 1000 N. 1200 West.

Another activity that operated in conjunction with the festival for three years, the Simple Treasures Boutique, will be open Nov. 29 through Dec. 2.

Olsen and a promoter said the boutique will include many Nativity displays as in years past.

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“We usually sell quite a few Nativities at the show,” said Jennie Thacker, promoter for the Simple Treasures Boutique. “We will have quite a few for sale.”

The boutique will feature more than 130 booths, Thacker said. “We will be selling lots of holiday items and gift items.”

Describing the boutique as a large event, Thacker said center visitors still will have much to see next weekend.

A spokesperson for the live Nativity, Tammy Hunt, said her family has created a nonprofit organization to allow them to hold their event separately.

Because the Holiday Festival received county backing, Hunt said her family was able to provide the live Nativity with few costs and without charge for those who attended.

While the Nativity will remain free, she said her family now is tasked with raising $10,000 to cover the new costs for insurance and renting the events center.

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The family has created an account at Goldenwest Credit Union called The Hunt Family Live Nativity Inc. for donations to help with the costs. 

“The county requested that we privatize,” Hunt said. “It was an unintended consequence of the Holiday Festival being dissolved.”

This is the 40th year the family has performed the live Nativity and Hunt said family members didn’t want to go back to performing on their lawns in residential neighborhoods.

The family wanted to continue offering the service to much larger crowds at the county facility, Hunt said.

“I project that we will have fewer people this year,” she said, pointing to crowds brought in by the festival. “I still believe the numbers will be larger than we were seeing at our home.”

Believing the live nativity fills a niche in the community, Hunt said her family is going on faith this year that the $10,000 needed to put on the event will come forward.

“I feel like this is an acceptable gift to my Heavenly Father and he knows why we do what we do,” Hunt said. “I am sure he will help us.”

The message of the live Nativity is profound and needed, she said. 

“You can take away all of the hustle and the stress of a commercialized Christmas by remembering why we celebrate the season and I feel like our Nativity shares that message with people.”

You can reach reporter JaNae Francis at jfrancis@standard.net or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or like her on Facebook at facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis.