Miners Hospital celebrates the holidays
Park City residents bundled up and braved cold temperatures on Wednesday to gather for the annual Christmas in the Park at Miners Hospital. The event’s name changed this year to Park City Holiday because the City was unsure if it would still be held in City Park due to city offices eventually being moved into the building, said Denise Carey, who works in recreation services for the city and organizes the event.
While its name may have changed, the spirit of the event remained the same. "It’s a reason for our community to gather together, and it’s a nice excuse for people to come out and see people they might not get to see for a while," said Loretta Haslock, an event volunteer and administrative assistant for transportation.
Park City resident Tom Bakaly has been attending for at least nine years. "It’s great just hanging out around the fire pits and eating hot roasted peanuts," he said. "It’s a tradition for our family."
After the community tree was lit, the party began, and a line formed out the door to see Santa Claus. For sixth-graders Molly Jager and Holly Huggins, seeing Santa is the best part. "It’s not a fake beard; it’s real," the girls exclaimed.
Mike Coffey has been Park City Holiday’s Santa for 15 years. "There was a time in my life when I didn’t have anything, and so that’s why I feel like giving is so important," he said. "Christmas is a time for giving and a time of magic for the children. It’s real for such a short time for kids," he said
Third-grader Claudia Lagnesc said she liked sitting on Santa’s lap and telling him about all the stuff she wants. However, Coffey said he doesn’t just take toy requests during the holiday season. "I play the role year round," he said. "Sometimes kids will see me at the grocery store or somewhere and I’ll ask them if I should be making toys for them."
While seeing Santa is the top of many kids’ list, for third-grader Andrew Miller, the event is more about relaxing, eating food and talking with friends. "And making cookies!" his friend, third-grader Alex Yokubison, chimed in. "There’s so many choices, you can add a mountain of candy; there’s frosting and sprinkles and chocolate chips and even Sugar Babies."
This was the second year Park City Holiday offered cookie decorating thanks to Bistro Toujours, a restaurant in Deer Valley. "It was just so much fun last year, the kids really go at it," executive chef Evan Wise said. "It’s really good to get out in the community."
"It’s good to see kids being so creative, too. We had this girl earlier who had frosting about three inches high. You should have seen her eat the cookie," he said, gesturing to his face that frosting came up to her nose.
At the cookie decorating table, parents hunched over their children helping spread frosting on sugar cookies and handing them sprinkles or chocolate chips. Wise bent down to help four-year-old Keller Brechuwald dip a plastic knife into the chocolate frosting.
Keller’s mom, Kara Brechuwald, said she’s been coming to Park City Holiday almost every year since she moved here about 17 years ago. "We definitely don’t miss it now that we have a four year old," she said. "I just hope that he (Keller Brechuwald) remembers the joy and the magic of nights like these."
This year, Kara Brechuwald said she was especially excited to see Bob Merrill recite "’Twas the Night Before Christmas."
This was Merrill’s second year reciting the poem, which was written by his great, great, great uncle. "Reading it has been a family tradition since I can remember," he said. "For me it’s a treat because this is my town I’ve lived here for 18 years and it’s an honor to be able to read it for the people of Park City."
As Merrill began reading, groups of people gathered around fire pits, hot chocolate dispensers, hot roasted peanuts and popcorn tables stopped chatting and turned to listen to this classic tale of Christmas.
"It just has the feeling of an Old Town Christmas," said Angela Buege, who moved to Park City from Chicago a month ago. "It feels like you’re in a town square in the middle of a Norman Rockwell painting."
To add to the ambiance of the evening, Jeremy Ranch Elementary School’s fifth-grade choir sang Christmas carols. The group filled the front steps of Miner’s Hospital, spilling out onto the porch. Many of the students wore Santa hats for the occasion.
Kaleb Estabrook’s son, Mark, sang in the choir. "We’ve been coming here for quite a few years, it’s a great community event, and the city does a really nice job with it," he said. "In the earlier years, we came here to see Santa, now we come to hear him (Mark Estabrook) sing."
New additions to Park City Holiday for this year included a magician who entertained kids as they waited to have their pictures taken with Santa and a table for face painting.
Carey said the face painting was really popular. "I was amazed by some of the face paintings that I saw like whole winter scenes I was quite impressed," she said. "That’s one we’ll definitely keep around for next year."
Despite the new activities, Carey said they didn’t have as many people show up. This year we had about 150 attend, she said, while most years the turnout is closer to 250. "Honestly, the people that weren’t there, they missed a lot," she said.
Whether it’s called Christmas in the Park or Park City Holiday and whether it’s held at Miners Hospital, or as may be the case for next year somewhere else, the event remains a great small town community celebration, says Kara Brechuwald.
It certainly means a lot for Holly Huggins. "It starts to really feel like Christmas when I come here," she said.
What is the spirit of Christmas?
Friends and families at Park City Holiday discuss why Christmas is important for them
"It’s gathering with friends and family."
Loretta Haslock, event volunteer and administrative assistant for transportation
"It’s family and friends that become your family."
Karen Yocum, event volunteer and recreation department
"Giving it’s so wonderful to see a person open a gift you got them."
Holly Higgins, sixth grade, Ecker Hill International Middle School
"It’s the jolly season."
Claudia Lagnesc, third grade, Parley’s Park Elementary School
"It’s celebrating Jesus’ birth."
Morgan Yokubison, third-grade, Parley’s Park Elementary School
"It means family and love and tradition. It’s a very grateful time of year for me."
Angela Buege, Park City resident, one month
"It’s the fact that you really get to focus on the people in your life your family and friends."
Kara Brechuwald, Park City resident, 17 years
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Park City intends to soon seat an internal task force that will study issues within the municipal government itself related to the LGBTQ community.