Fran Leslie dusts off one of the many Nutcrackers she has on display at her business Village Dry Goods located at 92 S. Main.
BRIGHAM CITY – The Nutcracker Ballet in America has it’s roots in Brigham City, said David Walker, a member of the Historic Downtown Alliance in Brigham City.
To bring attention to the popular Christmas Ballet’s tie with Box Elder County’s capitol, the city is holding their second annual Nutcracker Festival, Walker said, the co-director of the Alliance with his wife Donna.
The Nutcracker was originally performed in Russia in 1892 as a two-act ballet, but the first time it was performed in the United States was due to a Brigham City son.
“The Nutcracker’s first full-length performance 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 at the Box Elder Academy of Dance, and they transformed dance in the western U.S., Walker said.
The three brothers were instrumental in forming Ballet West, Portland Ballet and San Francisco Ballet companies.
“The Nutcracker Festival is to bring awareness with the cultural celebration,” he said. “It had its birth in Brigham City. The Christensens were the ones that brought it to Ballet West.”
This year is the 75th anniversary of that first performance. The Nutcracker Festival is growing; some of the businesses have caught the vision and some haven’t yet.
“We are trying to enlarge it,” he said. “This year the merchants are going to culminate with a youth ballet company performing the ballet on Dec. 12 and 13.”
Miss Michelle Jackman, who was trained by the Christensens, produces the youth production of the Nutcracker.
“On the weekends, we actually have live ballerinas in the window of the downtown businesses,” Walker said. “Every third Friday evening we have live music playing and we’ve asked the merchants to stay open a little longer to bring people downtown.”
He said he has a stake in the success of the Historic Downtown Alliance, he owns some businesses on the main street in Brigham.
“We are slowly making progress,” he said. “We go two steps forward and one back.”
Besides the Nutcracker Festival, the city has a Christmas Village grand opening this weekend at the Bill of Rights Plaza, located at 20 North Main, adjacent to the Box Elder County Courthouse. On Saturday, Santa will turn on the lights of the village. The village features elves at work in little houses.
Mike Allen, from the Kiwanis Club, said Santa will come to Brigham City riding on a fire truck. He will be on the courthouse steps to visit with all of the children.
“Some of the downtown businesses will be having different activities and treats for folks who stop by and visit,” Allen said. “Santa will be available at Santa’s Castle in the Bill of Rights Plaza after his arrival.”
Christmas Music will begin at 10:30 as the Wasatch Children’s Choir will perform, then Mr. and Mrs. Claus come down Main Street at 11 a.m.
Santa will sit on the steps of the Historic Courthouse and will be there for every child who wants a chance to visit with him.
Kiwanis Club is heading this year’s celebration and are calling it The Jingle Bell Bash. It is something new. Different downtown stores will have different activities and craft activities.
Even the local bar, B&B Billiards, will be handing out hot chocolate.
For a Bedford Falls kind of Christmas experience, downtown Brigham City is the place to be on Nov. 30.