As a kid, Jeff Rollo loved using Starbursts and other candies to build dinosaur sculptures and other creative projects. Now at 32, he gets the opportunity to take nearly 100 pounds of candy to build one of the six ornaments for Macy’s candy windows this holiday season at Macy's City Creek.
“I really like this Macy’s tradition,” said Rollo, a freelance web designer who lives in Holladay and is working on his master’s in information technology. “I think it’s a time where families can actually come together and celebrate the tradition of looking at the windows.”
The tradition of the candy windows goes back to the 1970s with ZCMI and Meier & Frank, according to Chad Young, the visual manager at Macy’s City Creek. The tradition fell to the side for several years when the store closed but was picked back up again when Macy’s opened in 2012.
When Macy’s opened, Young said they got a lot of feedback that this tradition is something that the community wanted to carry on because it was fun for people to go see the lights downtown and then go look at the candy windows.
“We really felt like it was something important to the community and something that we wanted to bring back and be a part of,” Young told the Deseret News.
Young said that an open call for artists begins in June each year. Now in its fifth year, the event has been increasingly popular with more submissions each year. In August, local staff members consult with their partners in New York to determine which windows will work best together and select six artists or group of artists from the submissions.
This year, 24 entries were submitted. Each of the six artists selected will design an ornament that is 42 inches in diameter with around 5,500 square inches of surface area to work with. Young said the balls average around 100-150 pounds when completed.
The theme for this year's windows is the holidays and the traditions around Salt Lake City during the season. The windows are sponsored by Sinclair Oil, which is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary. Because of this, many artists have included Sinclair in their designs or took inspiration from Sinclair’s history and implemented that with their holiday theme.
Rollo said for his ornament, he was looking at a video of Sinclair through the years and noticed that one of the former CEOs was wearing a Christmas sweater. Rollo used this as inspiration to do an ugly sweater ball design with different layers.
An aurora borealis wraps around Rollo’s ball, and each layer has kids playing with toys. The toys correspond to the different layers, which includes dinosaur, plane, science lab and baking-themed layers.
“I’m looking at childlike Christmas spirit in the design that I did,” Rollo said. “That’s really what I gravitate towards. I was trying to bring out that child and heart that’s in everyone and just do stuff like that.”
Rollo said he used around 80 pounds of candy for his ornament, which mostly included jelly beans, Red Hots, crystal rock candy, candy crumble and licorice.
Zach Albrecht, who also designed an ornament in last year’s candy windows, said he grew up going to the candy windows and was amazed at the larger-than-life candy ornaments on display. When he was presented with the opportunity to do his candy ornament last year, he jumped on that chance.
“I love the fact that it’s really fun. There’s a lot of problem-solving in it,” said Albrecht, 34, an interior design student at the Art Institute who graduated from Brigham Young University in graphic design. “Beyond that, once the project is finished, it’s so fun just to walk down the street and be a stranger in the crowd and to see everyone stop and pause and get away from this amped-up stress that comes around the holidays. Just seeing strangers enjoy your work is so gratifying.”
Last year Albrecht, who lives in downtown Salt Lake City, used 175 pounds of candy to create a Charlie Brown-themed ornament. This year, he ordered over 230 pounds of candy, mainly sour candies, Sixlets and licorice, to create a dinosaur cracking out of an egg for Sinclair’s 100th anniversary. He will also include Macy’s stars, symbolizing the two coming together to celebrate the holidays.
Albrecht will also implement Hanukkah into his design with some abstract symbols of the star of David and a menorah.
A big reason Albrecht said he chose to return this year was the reaction of his nieces and nephews to his Charlie Brown ornament. He said that one of his nephews had no interest in Charlie Brown beforehand, but after seeing his uncle’s ornament, ended up having a Charlie Brown-themed birthday party.
Pamela McMurtry, a holiday book author and an elementary school art teacher, is also participating for a second time this year after first doing a Santa ornament in 2013.
“There’s a lot of love and a lot of time that goes into these projects and a lot of creative training,” said McMurtry, author of the book “A Harvest and Halloween Handbook.”
McMurtry’s ornament this year will have a snowman family on one side with the Wasatch Front and the Delicate Arch in the background, with the young snowman playing with a toy Sinclair dinosaur. On the other side will be a gingerbread village with Santa and his sleigh flying across the moon.
“It’s a fun project,” said McMurtry, a mother of seven and grandmother of 13, who lives in Kaysville. “It’s fun as an artist to have your display downtown where people can enjoy it. It’s part of a community tradition. It’s kind of our family’s way of celebrating Christmas with the community as something we can give.”
McMurtry said she used between 100 and 120 pounds of candy, including jelly beans, Sixlets, licorice, crystal rock candy, snowflake-shaped candy, gum balls, gummy bears, lollipops and sugar sticks.
The unveiling of the candy windows will be Thursday, Nov. 17, at 6 p.m. Festivities will begin at 4 p.m. and following the unveiling will be a visit from Santa later in the evening. The candy windows will be on display until Jan. 1.
If you go …
What: Macy's holiday candy window display
When: Thursday, Nov. 17; activities begin at 4 p.m.; windows unveiled at 6 p.m.; on display Nov. 17-Jan. 1
Where: Macy's City Creek, Main Street windows, 21 S. Main, Salt Lake City
How much: Free