This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The arduous trek that the Mormon settlers made more than 160 years ago has been heralded in books, films, paintings and now gingerbread.
The sweet depiction of Utah's heritage is the work of inmates at the Timpanogos Women's Correctional Facility in Draper. The group has spent three months and nearly 2,000 hours, as well as 100 pounds of flour and many gallons of molasses, to create the display for this year's Festival of Trees.
The annual event runs Wednesday through Saturday at the South Towne Expo Center in Sandy.
The 700-plus elaborately decorated Christmas trees are the main attraction for the Festival, now in its 45th year. But guests also line up to see the gingerbread village, wreaths and quilts, all sold to benefit Primary Children's Hospital Foundation.
In all, there will be about 120 gingerbread creations at this year's event, said Jennifer Whitworth, an executive board member and the gingerbread village chair. The gingerbread displays come in all shapes and sizes, she said, but the donations from the Utah State Prison "are by far the biggest and most elaborate."
Lt. Rod Villamil, a supervisor in the prison's culinary arts program, started the tradition 14 years ago because "gingerbread houses are a challenge," but also to help female inmates discover artistic talents and learn to work together skills they will need when they reenter society.
Each year Villamil comes up with two designs, one with a holiday theme and another to excite children. This year, in addition to the Utah heritage piece, the inmates paid homage to animated children's movies. The piece features dragons and other colorful characters from "Box Trolls," "How to Train a Dragon," "Inside Out" and "Home."
Last year, the gingerbread displays from the Disney movie "Frozen" and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" raised $10,000 for the hospital.
The inmates hope to beat that amount this year.
In searching for a theme, Villamil and the inmates turned to something close to home: the Mormons' historic journey to Utah.
The temples in Nauvoo and Salt Lake City were built to scale and feature handmade candy windows and golden spires. There also are covered wagons, farm animals and trees, all set against a backdrop of red rocks representing Zion and Arches National Parks.
"We wanted it to be a tribute to the whole state of Utah," inmate Sally Krivanek said on Monday as she and others put the finishing touches on the work.
This year nine inmates were selected for the project, and all worked on individual pieces.
"Seeing it go from small pieces to a whole thing is always the most exciting," Krivanek said, adding that the project is more than just something to pass the time. "We realize what an opportunity it is to not only work on this project, but also to give back."
2015 Festival of Trees
This annual event, now in its 45th year, features more than 700 elaborately decorated Christmas trees as well as a gingerbread village, wreaths, quilts, a sweet shop, gift boutique and children's activities. Proceeds go to Primary Children's Hospital Foundation.
When • Tuesday-Saturday, Dec. 2-5, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Where • South Towne Expo Center, 9575 S. State, Sandy
Cost • Adults, $6; seniors, $5; children 2-11, $3. Family tickets (up to six people) for Dec. 2 available for $18. Discount tickets available at most Zions Bank branches.
Opening night auction and lights on ceremony • Tuesday, Dec. 1, 5 p.m. Tickets are $40 for two people. Call 801-662-5957.