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First yule in S.L. Valley was never this sweet

SHARE First yule in S.L. Valley was never this sweet

Ever wonder what the first Christmas in the Salt Lake Valley looked like?

A scale replica of the fort where the Mormon Pioneers spent their first Dec. 25 will be on display at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building beginning Friday, Nov. 26.Dozens of volunteers have spent some 500 hours building the fort, which will be placed in the southwest window of the main lobby overlooking South Temple Street. It will remain there throughout the holiday season.

Sugar wafers, marshmallows, royal icing, M&Ms, Skittles, graham crackers and other candies comprise the model fort.

Esther Henricksen, a garden designer for the LDS Church, has led the effort the create the fort. She also has a degree in landscape history and said every effort has been made in research, scale and candy improvising to build the 5-foot wide by 11-foot long masterpiece.

Although many know about Cove Fort, the Salt Lake Valley's first fort is relatively unknown and unheralded.

Today's descendent of the fort is Pioneer Park.

Henricksen said both the original fort and Pioneer Park have the common thread of housing the homeless.

She said some 2,000 pioneers spent about the first two years, 1847-49, in the fort. It was 40 acres in size and located between 300 and 400 West and 300 to 600 South.

The original fort had adobe and log walls and doors were painted red. The Nauvoo Bell and a flag and cannon were the fort's centerpieces.

The pioneers spent the first Christmas Day in the fort on limited rations, singing songs.

Karin Kellgreen, pastry chef for the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, was instrumental in organizing the candy to create the model.

Henricksen's friend, Sally Read, was so interested in helping with the replica that she flew to Salt Lake City from New York to do so.

Other volunteers, including some full-time LDS missionaries, have also assisted. Bertha O'Reilly spent more than four days working on the fort.

"It's tedious, but satisfying," she said.

She cut cinnamon sticks to represent the chimneys in the fort.

Wagons are made from a marshmallow on a licorice nib, with mini M&Ms for the wheels, apricot leather for the canvass and licorice strings for the tongues.

In fact, Oreo and graham cracker crumbs serve as the "dirt."

Shelly Zollinger had three daughters and a friend assist with the fort's construction.