For many Utahns, the annual Macy’s holiday candy window display is a long-cherished holiday tradition, which draws hundreds of families for the big event that reveals the holiday windows to the public for the first time.
This year’s window displays, inspired by Utah, feature the work of six local artists who have crafted giant Christmas ornaments into whimsical scenes of what Utah means to them. Each artist, selected six months ago, spends countless hours designing an ornament made entirely of candy to display in the Macy’s windows at City Creek Center on Salt Lake City’s Main Street. The ornaments are on display until New Year’s.
This community tradition began in Utah in the 1970s with the historic ZCMI department stores. Macy’s kept the tradition alive when it acquired Utah’s ZCMI in 2007.
For this Verve holiday episode, we had the opportunity to meet two of the artists, Jennifer Vesper and Jeff Rollo, to get a taste of their creative process.
Jennifer Vesper has been making cakes for 20 years. She started when a close friend pushed her to make her wedding cake before the days of YouTube tutorials. She now runs her own cake business called Layers of Love. Having started with fondant and marzipan as a medium, working with candy was an easy jump for Vesper.
"One of the reasons I love cake decorating so much is because of the genuine smiles you get when the cake enters the room," Vesper said. “It is nice to have something that always makes people happy. I feel like these ornaments bring those same smiles to the people who view them. Who wouldn't smile at 100 pounds of spinning candy?"
Jennifer, who grew up in Farwest, Utah, is a self-described “country girl” who developed a love for nature when she was young. “What inspires me is everything around me,” Vesper said. “I love the outdoors. When driving down the canyon, I would notice the layers in the mountains and think I want to create that.’"
Jennifer, the managing editor of The Morgan County News, has also designed elaborate gingerbread houses for Ivory Homes, often mimicking the company's model homes.
Jeff Rollo is a sculptor who uses food as a medium. He has been sculpting fruit and vegetables into festive displays for the past decade. In recent years, his hobby has shifted into something more with his small business called Fruit Worx. “I really started carving fruit because I absolutely love celebrating holidays,” said Rollo. “Even from childhood I have enjoyed making things for holidays. What I like so much about food is that when you sculpt it, you are not just creating something that is meant to be looked at and admired but actually meant to be consumed and enjoyed on an entirely different level.”
Working as a biology lab technician by day at ARUP, Rollo enjoys challenging himself and exercising his creative juices with his side projects. He says he learned the salience of creativity from his parents, who made holiday arts and crafts a family tradition.
Contributing to the annual Macy’s Window displays is something Rollo believes to be significant. “I think it’s important to carry on traditions because that’s what unite families—doing things together,” Rollo said.
If interested in seeing more of their work, visit Jeff Rollo’s website, Fruit Worx, and Jennifer Vesper’s cake making blog, Layers of Love.
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