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Lights, music and Santa bring in the holiday season

By Genelle Pugmire - | Nov 19, 2021
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On Monday, the Christmas lights turn on at a fun event at the Orem City Center.
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On Friday, the Shops at Riverwoods will have their annual lights on event.
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Gingerbread houses are displayed as part of the Bakers of Utah Gingerbread Competition on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, at University Place in Orem.
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Kayla Ostler, 5, and her brother Wyatt, 4, both of Lehi, check out gingerbread houses on display as part of the Bakers of Utah Gingerbread Competition on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, at University Place in Orem.

The holiday season has officially begun. With Thanksgiving next week, and Christmas just a month away, the festivities and lights are beginning to shine.

Here are a few traditional holiday events that are back after a year of COVID-19 hiatus.

Shops At Riverwoods

The Shops at Riverwoods will host their annual Lighting of Riverwoods event this Friday.

“We want our guests to come and celebrate the beginning of the holiday season with us,” said JJ Haering, general manager of the Shops at Riverwoods. “This event is performed by the community, for the community.”

The event will start with a countdown to light the Shops at Riverwoods with 1.5 million twinkle lights. Utah Valley’s own Jeanette Bennett and Taylor Godfrey will lead the countdown to begin the lighting festivities. A fireworks show will immediately follow the lighting.

Musical performances from community members will provide the entertainment for the duration of the evening including Beyond Measure, Mariachi America de Utah and Connor Ross. The Truman Brothers will headline the show.

Visitors are encouraged to visit Santa Claus, the shops and restaurants, explore the lights, ice sculptures, and take advantage of decorative photo ops.

“We hope the Lighting of the Riverwoods is a memorable holiday event for the whole family,” said Haering.

Orem city Lights On

The 12th annual Orem Lights On holiday event will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at the Orem City Center. Every year, the community gathers to enjoy treats, sing Christmas songs, spend time with Santa and turn on the city’s light display as the official kick-off to the holiday season.

“Due to a combination of COVID and construction, we were unable to hold this event last year and are excited to be back,” Pete Wolfley, Orem city spokesperson, said. “We really appreciate our partners for this event because without them it really wouldn’t be possible. We would like to thank Walker Sanderson Funeral Home, Rocky Mountain Power, Treeo, and the Scera Center for the Arts.”

“Santa’s reindeer weren’t available for our event but there is no reason to fret. The Orem Fire Department has answered Santa’s call for help and will be bringing him in on a fire engine,” Wolfley added.

After a short musical program, Santa will set up shop inside Library Hall to talk with the girls and boys. There will also be other special guests in attendance including a few of Santa’s elves and his favorite woolly mammoth, Mero.

Nearly every tree on the city center campus has been covered in lights to add to the magic of the evening, Wolfley noted.

“Every year we get tons of comments from the public about how much they love and appreciate the lights. It seems to bring a lot of people a lot of holiday cheer. The lights are professionally hung each year by off-season Alaskan lumberjacks. The way they climb the trees to string the lights around the branches is a sight you have to see to believe,” Wolfley said.

Residents are encouraged to dress warm and consider other. Facemasks are encouraged but not required.

University Place

University Place has a variety of holiday events planned, and with the lights already shining at The Orchard, the spirit of the season has already begun.

Other events coming up include:

Lite Brite Nites

Every Thursday, Nov. 18 – Dec. 30 (except Nov. 25) from 6-8 p.m.

Interactive Christmas lights adorn The Orchard, including life-sized color changing shapes and a giant Lite Brite. Warm up at the fire pits and free treats will be provided while supplies last.

Santa’s Grand Arrival

What would Christmas be without the traditional fly-in of Santa’s helicopter. Residents are invited at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 26, for the landing.

Located in the parking lot in front of Tucano’s Brazilian Grill, there will be live entertainment and refreshments while waiting for Santa to land.

Visit Santa at University Place Shopping Center

Friday, Nov. 26 – Friday, Dec. 24 (every day except Sunday) from 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

After Santa has landed, kids have the opportunity meet him one-on-one inside the shopping center at Santa’s Village, located next to Forever Young Shoes, in the west end of the shopping center.

Gingerbread House Competition

From 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 29 – Saturday, Dec. 4

It’s time for the 4th annual University Place Gingerbread House Competition. The 2021 competition has grown to 50 entries on display. This year’s judges are Brenda Nibley from Gingergiddy, Mary Crafts from Culinary Crafts and Pete Tidwell from The Mighty Baker. The first-place winner will receive $1,000.

The Gingerbread houses will be on display all week, and guests are asked to vote on their favorite for the People’s Choice award. The Gingerbread houses will be in the west end of the shopping center by Maurices.

Santa and Friends

From 5-7 p.m. every Tuesday starting Nov. 30 – December 21, Santa will be joined by a few of his friends, including princesses, holiday characters and even some bad guys from the dark side.

Provo Towne Centre

Santa Photos:

Santa will be taking photos with families every day, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., including each Sunday, starting Nov. 24 through Dec 24.

Residents can enter to win a Santa photo package now through Dec. 19 or make a photo reservation with Santa online.

Each week there will be a different themed photo night, from Pajama Party Photo Night to Ugly Christmas Sweater Photo Night. Details can be found on the Towne Centre website.

Santa Welcome Party:

From 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Nov. 27.

Bring your family and help welcome Santa to the Provo Towne Centre. Meet near the Santa Display next to the Food Court. Children attending will sing carols to welcome Santa. There will be face-painting, balloon characters, letters to Santa and giveaways from Coca-Cola and the Provo Towne Centre. Participants can even take a picture with the Coca-Cola Polar Bear.

Sensory Santa — Santa Cares Special Needs Event:

From 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 6.

Children with special needs are invited to a private photo session to visit with Santa during dedicated hours. Admission is free, however, a reservation is required. Reservations can be made online.

Provo Towne Centre is also providing free gift wrapping services throughout the holidays.

There will be free musical holiday performances throughout the holiday season. A permanent stage will be set-up on the lower level outside JCPenney’s to host local school groups and musical acts.


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