This Saturday in Sun Valley, it was as if someone held a holiday kaleidoscope to my eye, slowly turning the barrel as one scene lost focus while another coalesced.
During the Winter Wonderland Gala, the first image I saw was that of a large expectant crowd waiting outside the Boiler Room for the official opening of the Gingerbread Village. Turn the wheel to the next picture and throngs of people surrounded the Gingerbread Village, a scale replica of all that makes Sun Valley charming. Children peered and pointed at the tiny buildings with candy windows; a swan in the pond; perfect storefronts. Adults bent for a better angle from which to see down walkways and around corners. The strong scent of gingerbread mingled with the aroma of hot cocoa and wet wool.
Turn the tube again and the all-girls’ chorus, Colla Voce, from Wood River High School slides into focus. Clad in festive red or cream colored coats and Santa caps with their long, shiny hair falling down their backs, the a capella group charmed with songs of the season in multi-part harmony. A fire blazed in the fire pit on the patio, providing warmth and cheer.
The next click of the wheel brings into focus a brightly colored, lit-with-holiday- strings, children’s train. If the kaleidoscope could capture sounds, you would hear shrieks of joy and excitement as the train came into view, stopping at the “station” in front of the Brass Ranch. All aboard!
Next, the kaleidoscope’s images would show a scavenger hunt challenging participants to find specific images in Sun Valley’s spectacular new holiday window displays. Where is the Eiffel Tower? There it is! In the window of Brass Ranch — a whimsical interpretation of Christmas in the City of Lights. Where are two skiers schussing down the slopes? In Austria, of course, on the window in front of the Toy Store. Little hands wrote answers on the official ticket that they would enter for the chance to win — ski passes, ski lockers, 10 prizes in all.
Another spin of the barrel brought into focus a horse-drawn wagon ride around Sun Valley Village, with Cowboy Jess at the reins and Barney and Bill graciously pulling the load. Another rotation showed Santa Claus center stage, offering his “bowl full of jelly” lap to long lines of children, all anxious for their photo and for Santa’s ear.
A huge turn to the right shows a vignette of excited kids, their caretakers practically jogging to keep up with them, in the quest for stamps at each window location. They ducked into the shops, the Inn and the Lodge, grinning widely as their passports were stamped with a holiday greeting from the different nations represented by each window. Once the passports were full of multi-colored ink, they were shown in return for a special sweet treat.
A final twist of the kaleidoscope shows my friends relaxing in the warm, inviting lobby at the Lodge with some hot chocolate for the children and a hot apple cider or some bubbly for the mothers. As we unwound in front of the brightly lit and whimsical window showing a Swiss Christmas at its finest, it felt as if the holidays had arrived. (The more than two feet of snow that fell on Baldy didn’t hurt either.)
Like the vibrant stained-glass shapes that all fall into place in a kaleidoscope to create an unexpected whole, Sun Valley’s Winter Wonderland Gala brought the community together. It invited wonder at the season from children on their dad’s shoulders to grandmothers patiently helping fill out scavenger hunt forms. Saturday provided a vivid, multi-hued, many-faceted start to the holidays that will continue right through Christmas Day. Be sure to come to the Village during this festive time. You will be glad you did.
more photos because there was so much going on!: