BRIGHAM CITY – The Box Elder County seat is all dressed up for the holidays and the Downtown Historic District’s Nutcracker Festival continues to grow. More and more businesses are filling their store windows with wooden toy soldiers.
Some of the colorful nutcrackers range from as small as six inches, others a foot tall and some are large human-sized and everything in between. Some of the nutcrackers are inflatable, some made from wood and some out of fiberglass.
David Walker, the founder for the Nutcracker Festival and the Brigham City Historic Downtown Alliance, said the Festival is a fitting tribute to The Nutcracker Ballet which has roots in their city.
“It is building slowly,” he said. “This is our fourth year and we want to make it even bigger next year.”
The ballet was originally performed in Russia in 1892 as a two-act ballet, but the first time it was performed in the United States was a Brigham City native who first performed it in America.
“The first full-length performance of the Nutcracker ballet was on Dec. 24, 1944, directed by Willam (not William) Christensen at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera,” Walker said. “Christensen learned to dance at the Box Elder Academy of Music and Dancing, right here in Brigham City.”
Willam and his brothers, Lou and Harold, all learned to dance in Brigham City and went on to transform dance in the western U.S., Walker said. The three brothers were instrumental in forming Ballet West, Portland Ballet and San Francisco Ballet companies.
“We moved here five years ago,” Walker said. “We love the community. As we tried to find themes that are unique to Brigham City, we discovered the community’s tie to the Nutcracker, and it started to take off from there.”
The Christensen brothers were thought to be heroes in the dance community.
“On the third Friday of November we generally have a contest for store displays and we a have live ballerinas in front of the stores that normally lead up to the Nutcracker Ballet held the second week in December.”
“Some of this year’s activities where people could gather were all cancelled due to COVID,” he said. “But the window nutcracker decorating contest still happened and the ballet will be presented by zoom.”
The window displays were judged this year and there were four categories.
The Best Handcrafted Nutcracker went to Main Street Haircutters with a $500 prize. The Best Storefront display went to Edward Jones’ Daniel Kennedy with a $400 prize. The best window display went to Romantic Remnants with a $300 prize.
“The money won from the Romantic Remnants store, which is owned by my wife Donna, was passed on to a charity,” he said. “The Nuttiest Nutcracker went to Half-Axed Throwing and Food with a $200 prize.”
The People’s Choice Award will be given out this weekend and will be decided by social media. The winner of the People’s Choice Award will receive $100 this Friday.
Walker said they started the Nutcracker Festival to bring awareness to where it all started with a cultural celebration.
“It was born right here in Brigham City. The Christensen’s were the ones who brought it to Ballet West,” he said. “This year’s Nutcracker Ballet is being presented via Zoom each day this week.”
If readers are interested, contact the Classical Youth Ballet for meeting access at (435) 730-7797.