The Kearns Mansion — the home of Utah governors, including the current occupants, Gov. Spencer Cox and first lady Abby Cox — sparkled on Tuesday, Nov. 29 with a child’s winter-holiday wonder.
In the lightly falling snow, 29 fourth-grade students at Midvale Elementary arrived at the historic home in Salt Lake City visibly excited to trim the tree in the 120-year-old mansion’s library.
The Midvale students, led by Principal Lori Reynolds and Assistant Principal Sara Caldwell, were invited by Cox’s office to create decorations for the tree, which is a featured part of the holiday open houses hosted by Gov. and Mrs. Cox at the stately South Temple manor.
For the project, which was centered around the theme “The Roaring 20s,” the students posed for black-and-white photos while wearing flapper-girl dresses and bowler-style hats. The photos were then placed in glitter-embellished yellow frames. Feathers, ribbon, golden pipe cleaners, and black ornaments, reminiscent of the “The Great Gatsby” era, completed the unique yuletide décor.
“We were so excited when we got the email asking us to be a part of this,” Caldwell said. “At that point, the ideas for the decorations just started flowing.”
Caldwell and Reynolds worked with the students on Wednesday afternoon to put the finishing touches on the hand-made decorations, which were carted to the governor’s mansion in a giant blue tote.
First lady Abby Cox told KSL.com the tree and mantle made by the Midvale students “were amazing They are amazing.”
“The kids were so thrilled to be here,” she said, “they had the best questions (and) they make us laugh. They’re really special.”
The first family welcomed the Mustangs warmly and helped the class place the decorations on the tree. The last ornament to be placed — a silver star — was done by Gov. Cox himself. The group of students and other visitors chuckled as the star wouldn’t remain upright.
Gov. Cox even reflected on this moment in a late Tuesday Twitter post: “Special morning decorating the tree and reading stories w/ these amazing kids. When I placed the star on the tree we quickly realized it was too heavy. I apologized to the kids for the sad star and was interrupted by one of them: ‘Now it’s a shooting star!’ Indeed. #perspective”
The students, who earned the trip to the governor’s mansion by earning high grades and making sure they didn’t have any discipline problems, enjoyed reading a book with Mrs. Cox. The Cox family then led the class on a short tour of the elegant multi-story mansion. Mind you, the students didn’t see every room — but just enough to whet their appetite to learn more about Utah history, which they will do this year as part of their fourth-grade core.
The day was made even more special for Midvale fourth-grader Kaedyn Glad, who approached the governor with a commemorative coin from a local sheriff’s office.
The boy’s grandfather, who worked in law-enforcement, encouraged Kaedyn to present the coin to Cox if given a chance. A delighted Cox graciously accepted the coin — then gave Kaedyn a coin emblazoned with the state seal and Cox’s signature.
Caldwell said the bus ride back to school was “magical.”
“The students could not stop talking about it,” she said about decoration-making and tree-trimming experience. “It was like they left a piece of themselves there.”
Midvale Elementary is the second Canyons class to decorate the tree at the governor’s mansion. Brookwood Elementary was invited in 2018.