OGDEN — Imagine Santa Claus riding atop a locomotive and wearing a cowboy hat, boots and a big ol’ rodeo belt buckle.
That’s pretty much the upcoming Cowboy Christmas at Ogden’s Union Station, in a nutshell.
The first Cowboy Christmas will be held Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16-17, in the historic train station in downtown Ogden. The event features entertainment by cowboys and cowgirls, merchandise booths, demonstrations, kids activities, food and more.
“I would describe it as totally awesome,” said JaNae Francis, chairwoman of the event. “You can come and do your Christmas shopping and get unique gifts — interesting things you won’t see anywhere else. At the same time, there will be western musicians and cowboy poets performing on three stages.”
The event will run 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16-17, at Union Station, 2501 Wall Ave. Admission is $5; a family pass is $20. Two-day passes are $8 and $30.
Francis said the $5 admission price is a steal, since it also includes access to the museums at Union Station.
“Which is $2 less than it is to get in normally,” she said.
Cowboy Christmas is a fundraiser for the Union Station Foundation. Francis said proceeds from the event will help gussy-up the historic railroad station in advance of next year’s Transcontinental Railroad Sesquicentennial.
“We’re raising money so that in May, when we have the big celebration of the trains coming together and the whole world comes to Ogden, we’ll have nice facilities for all the visitors,” Francis said.
Over the two days, entertainment will be offered on three stages throughout the station. Musical performers will include Blue Sage, Many Strings, Dan Doshier, Saddle Serenade, In Cahoots, Johnson Creek Band, Dale Major, SaddleStrings, David and Jenny Anderson, and STAMPEDE! Cowboy poetry will be presented by Gordon Champneys, Colton Blankman, Ken Wellard, Fred Engel, Bob Urry, Sam DeLeeuw, and Thatch Elmer.
A children’s area will be open from 3-7 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday. The Kids Christmas Corral offers youngsters the chance to make art, decorate a cookie and participate in various activities.
“You can throw a beanbag, that looks like coal and throw it into the boiler of a train to win prizes,” Francis said.
Kids can also learn how to tie up a calf, which is really just a board with four rubber hoses sticking out of it.
“That’s how cowboys practice tying up calves,” said Francis, a former Miss Rodeo Utah. “They sit in their living room and use this board with hoses to practice. You can learn to do that in the kids corral.”
One of the stages will be set up in the Kids Christmas Corral and will feature performers geared toward children.
Santa will also be visiting the children’s area.
Food vendors will be featured in the restaurant space at Union Station during the event. Vendors will include Wimpy and Fritz, Little Valley Country Store, Crepetastic, and Wasatch Roasting Company.
An open-mic stage, offering attendees the chance to try their hand at western music and cowboy poetry, will also be set up in the food area.
Laughs Francis: “If you’re afraid you won’t have an audience, wrong-o! Because people will be eating, and they will be forced to listen to you.”
Several other separate events will be offered in conjunction with the two-day Cowboy Christmas celebration.
Two concerts will be presented on Friday evening. The first one, at 6 p.m., will feature Trinity Seely, a western musician from Cascade, Montana, The concert will be held in an upstairs room at the station, and tickets are $10.
Then, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Mary Kaye, an award-winning western singer-songwriter from Escalante, will perform a concert on the station’s main floor. Tickets are $15.
“They’re both real, live, honest-to-goodness cowgirls,” Francis said. “Both sing about the western way of life, and they are authentic. They ride horses, round up cattle, and live on ranches.”
Kaye will present a second concert at 6 p.m. Saturday, performing with the Saddle-Up band from Wasatch Cowboy Church. Tickets to this concert are $10.
A Saturday Night Western Dance, featuring music by Saddle Serenade, will be held 7-10 p.m. Saturday at the station. Tickets are $5 per person.
And finally, at 6 p.m. Thursday — the night before the Cowboy Christmas event gets started — a gala fundraising dinner will be held at the station. Headliner for the evening will be Seely, with SaddleStrings opening. The dinner will feature a Dutch-oven cowboy-style meal from Cast Iron Catering in Brigham City. Thursday’s event will also include both a live auction and silent auction.
Tickets to the gala are $75, available online at acowboychristmas.org.
“Or, you can call me, and I’ll personally deliver your tickets for the gala,” Francis promised. “And I’ll even wear my western pants with the fringe on them.”
For more information, call Francis at 801-645-9646.