Trains and Treats and Santa, Oh My!

A child wonders at the beautiful Christmas window at the Lodge

Childish wonder was apparent everywhere on Saturday at the Sun Valley Village

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.

The Lodge's famous swan pond is replicated in gingerbread and candy

The Lodge's famous swan pond is replicated in gingerbread and candy

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!

A child-friendly train wends through the Village

A child-friendly train wends through the Village

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.

Dane shows off his finished passport book

Dane shows off his finished passport book

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.

Our scanvenger hunt team takes a break at the Lodge

Our scavenger hunt team takes a break at the Lodge

–RES

more photos because there was so much going on!:

Cooper shows off the treat he received after visiting all the holiday windows

Cooper shows off the treat he received after visiting all the holiday windows

 

This little scavenger hunter gets a lift from dad

This little scavenger hunter gets a lift from dad

 

Colla Voce serenades the crowd

Colla Voce serenades the crowd

 

 

 

Ten great prizes were awarded at the end of the scavenger hunt

Ten great prizes were drawn at the end of the scavenger hunt

Visions of Sugarplums and Scents of Gingerbread

The Sun Valley Village takes shape in gingerbread

The Sun Valley Village takes shape in gingerbread

If you have a child, or if you ever were a child, then you won’t want to miss this. On Saturday, December 1, Sun Valley will unveil a Gingerbread Village that is an (almost) exact to-scale interpretation of the Sun Valley Village and beyond. Frosted eaves decorate the windows of the Ram Restaurant, the Toy Store and Brass Ranch. The Lodge pools are cerulean blue pools of melted Jolly Ranchers. The Snowball Express circles the buildings, sending up powdery snow in its wake. Everything Sun Valley will be represented, from the iconic red barn to Bald and Dollar Mountains, even the Sinclair station, in wonderful, whimsical, and delicious-smelling miniature.

Thayne moves mountains, and holiday confections

Thayne moves mountains, and holiday confections

Thayne Hendricks and his team (don’t call them elves) are busy, busy, busy turning what once was the Boiler Room into this holiday wonderland. An enormous 20 by 30-foot platform dominates the sparkling clean room, devoid of any vestiges of its nightclub history. Instead, buildings constructed from foam core, gingerbread and icing are finding their spot on the platform as the village quickly takes shape, from the center out.

“We start from the middle and position the buildings and all the landscaping, working out toward the edges,” Thayne explained as he prepared to journey to the center of the table to do just that.

The Lodge and Lodge Pool are ready for placement

The Lodge and Lodge Pool are ready for placement

The entire scene has been painstakingly mapped out, grid by grid. Construction is reminiscent of the childhood universes most of us built with houses, animals, castles or forts but on a much bigger scale. Thayne, a contractor by trade, helped construct in foam core, replicas of all the structures being featured. They are then sent to local baker extraordinaire, Mary Jones of the Chocolate Moose, who bakes and molds all the wonderful gingerbread, icing and piping. Back the houses come to Thayne who places them in their proper footing for the season and surrounds them with spruce trees, walkways and lampposts creating a wondrous scene.

The effect, for me, creates a desire to shrink back down to the size of a seven-year-old, to peer through the windows, look around corners and see the hundreds of exacting details at exactly eye level.  From the vantage point of a child, the magic is sure to be, well, magical.

The Gingerbread Village is one of many reasons to come to Sun Valley on Saturday, and to bring the entire family. The ribbon cutting officially opening the exhibit is set for 1 p.m. and will be followed immediately by the Holiday Window Stroll Scavenger Hunt.  The store windows in Sun Valley have been transformed into an interactive 3-D art gallery, featuring scenes of the holidays around the world. (For more on the windows, I refer you back to the Valley Sun entry dated November 16). Participants in the Scavenger Hunt will receive game cards at Village retail shops, the Recreation Center, the front desk at the Inn and the Lodge and the Boiler Room Deck and the hunt is on!  Ten lucky grand prize winners will be announced at 4 p.m. when game cards are turned in at the Boiler Room.

The windows at the Sun Valley Signature and Gift Store are transformed

One of the eye-popping windows in the Village this season

And to really kick holiday spirit into high gear, a special visit by the big man himself, Santa Claus, is planned for 3 p.m. Follow his hearty ho, ho, ho’s to the deck at Bald Mountain Pizza. There will be wagon rides around the Village and some delicious seasonal treats, too.

All of this Winter Wonderland festivity is absolutely free and is the perfect prelude to the holidays. Sun Valley will be alight in the weeks to come, literally and figuratively, with the Tree Lighting Celebration, Gingerbread Decorating, the 5th Annual Classical Christmas Concert, carolers, the reopening of the newly renovated Konditorei Restaurant, all culminating in the Christmas Eve Celebration on the Sun Valley Terrace.

On Saturday, follow the sweet smell of gingerbread and the sweet smiles on children’s faces to the Boiler Room and let the season begin!

–RES

Follow the signs to the fun

Follow the signs to the fun

Holiday Window Stroll

Holiday Window Stroll

Daily, November 23 – January 4
Sun Valley Village Shop Windows

A free and interactive self-guided stroll through the Village. The theme, “Celebrating the Language of the Holidays”, honors the cultural diversity of holidays and festive celebrations around the globe. Participants will receive “passports” to be stamped inside at every window location, each bearing a holiday greeting in a different language. A special seasonal confection will be given out at the end of the stroll.

Window Stroll Picture Window Stroll Picture Window Stroll Picture Window Stroll Picture Window Stroll Picture

Holiday Window Stroll

Sun Valley Village

A free and interactive self-guided stroll through the Village.  The theme, “Celebrating the Language of the Holidays”, honors the cultural diversity of holidays and festive celebrations around the globe.  Participants will receive “passports” to be stamped inside at every window location, each bearing a holiday greeting in a different language.  A special seasonal confection will be given out at the end of the stroll.