Southern Utah News Articles
Top Stories for November 24, 2010
Lee Anne Chamberlain: The 20-year rock of Kanab's Annual Christmas Festival
Forgive Lee Anne Chamberlain if she gives you a rather hurried hello these days. It’s the holiday season and the creative Lee Anne is working on the 20th edition of a Christmas Festival that began back in 1990, and continues to this day as Kanab’s “social event of the year.”
“It doesn’t seem like it was 20 years ago when we first started doing this,” said Chamberlain this week as she hustled to a number of community service appointments wedged between hours spent at her full-time job running the Moqui Cave tourist attraction, along with her husband, Lex.
Back then, Chamberlain was approached by the management of Kane County Hospital, which was in search of ways to raise money for some worthwhile causes. They had tried a spaghetti dinner and an auction, but knowing that Lee Anne had a special creative touch, they were hoping for something new.
“I just came up with the Christmas Festival idea,” she said. “Knowing that we had a fabulous symphony that had just started a few years before, the thought was that we could combine it with a more formal dinner and maybe charge a bit more. Then we thought we could add a festival the next day using the same decorations.”
The idea was a hit, and so was the first event. Chamberlain put together a committee of volunteers to get it all done and 20 years later, everything is still going strong.
“When the hospital built the thrift store, our event was not needed as much, because that served as a good source of hospital fundraising,” she recalled. “But then the Kanab PTA approached us about doing a fundraiser for the elementary, middle and high schools. That worked for quite a few years.”
Eventually the event evolved into a marriage involving the symphony and the school music departments, where both groups could split the proceeds.
“We found that parents of music students were more than willing to work for the good of the various music programs,” she said, “and through the years this motivation has ensured that we have plenty of volunteers.”
Each year dozens of individuals donate their time helping Chamberlain exercise her creative genius. The Kanab Middle School gymnasium is magically transformed into a Christmas wonderland of sorts, with decorations strategically placed floor to ceiling. Indeed, were it not for the basketball hoops pulled up to the ceiling, there would be no way to tell the Christmas Festival venue is really a gymnasium in disguise.
“We used to do the program in the high school gymnasium and it continued there for about 15 years,” Chamberlain said. “Eventually, because of conflicts with sports practices and games, we went to the middle school, where we have been the past five years.”
It takes dozens of volunteers to make the Christmas Festival happen, let alone become the success that produces $10,000-$15,000 each year that is split between the symphony and the school music departments.
“People love our symphony and want it to succeed, but they also have a vested interest in their children’s education,” said Chamberlain. “Money earned helps pay for trips where the child benefits from increased participation in music competitions and other events.”
Through the years, the students and parents have come and gone, but usually after a lull of some years, volunteers re-engage and become volunteers again. Some have been involved with the event for the entire 20 years.
The names come easily to Chamberlain as she mentions Kevin and Mary Glazier, Rinda and Alan Alldredge, Tracy Hiscock, Emma and Bob Houston to name a few.
“Emma was the person behind that very first spaghetti dinner for the hospital, which is the original event that kicked off the 20-year tradition,” Chamberlain said. “She is a great lady who can motivate and move mountains, and we admire her for being as active as she has for all these years.”
Meanwhile, Lee Anne Chamberlain, the creative inspiration behind the current Festival, has her own work to do and little time for any more interviewing.
There are posters to approve, tickets to print, decorations to find, things to order, and, well, tie everything together to where it all makes sense come December 3.
When the big night arrives and people begin streaming into the Kanab Middle School gymnasium, they will hear beautiful music, produced, performed and directed by local, talented people of all ages. This year’s theme is “Carnival at Christmas,” so not only will people be treated to the usual Christmas-oriented decorations, there will be an additional touch and flair that include pennants, carnival midway paraphernalia, balloons, cotton candy and other unlikely Christmas fare.
Putting Carnival and Christmas together sounds like a tough order, but Chamberlain, with 20 years of experience behind her, can pull it off. Tickets for the December 3 event, priced at $35, are available at Glazier’s Family Market, Honey’s Marketplace and Zion Pharmacy.