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Draper Journal

Over 50 years later, a Draper gardener once again helps light up Temple Square

Dec 01, 2023 09:36AM ● By Katherine Weinstein

As head gardener, Draper resident Scott Goold maintains the grounds at Temple Square and helps put up the annual Christmas light display. (Photo by Scott Goold)

Draper resident Scott Goold helped to create special Christmas memories for visitors to Temple Square this year. In his position as Head Gardener, Goold is one of the workers who puts up the holiday light display that draws thousands of visitors each Christmas season. As a young boy in the 1960s, Goold helped his grandfather put up the first light displays in Temple Square. "I just find it interesting that the first job I ever had was doing the lights in Temple Square. Now that I'm back at the Church and taking care of the grounds, I've come full circle," he said.

The first holiday lighting ceremony on Temple Square was held in 1965 when nearly 15,000 people gathered to watch former Church President David O. McKay push the button to illuminate 40,000 lights. Even though there is no longer a formal lighting ceremony, the lights have continued on Temple Square each year as a reminder of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Goold grew up in White City, but spent a good deal of time in Temple Square helping out his grandfather, Joseph Leland Behunin. Behunin was a trained arborist who was given the job of putting lights in the trees at Temple Square by President McKay. “I sat near the old pioneer museum on a wooden bench taking Christmas lights out of their boxes,” Goold explained. “My grandfather showed me how to take the brand new lights out of the box and wrap them around so that he could throw them over the tree branches.”

He continued to help his grandfather and later his uncle put up the lights for years. The process of hanging them has changed over time. “When I was younger I would climb up on a ladder and climb the trees,” Goold said. “Now we do it all from man lifts. You’re able to reach anywhere you’d want to be.”

Years ago, the gardeners had the creative license to put certain colors of lights on the trees. “Nowadays I believe the Church has a small planning committee,” he said.

Goold started his current position last April. Four groups of gardeners maintain different areas of Temple Square. Goold handles the area around the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, the Relief Society Building, Administration Building and the Church History Library. For much of the year, he divides his time between working at the Church-owned nursery and maintaining the grounds at Temple Square.

Setting up the Christmas lights is a project that brings all the workers together. “With the missionary volunteers, there’s probably about 30 of us that work on the lights,” Goold said. “This year we started the process in mid-September.”

Approximately 4 million tiny light bulbs twinkle from the trees and other structures on Temple Square. Each year the lights on Temple Square are a little different, perhaps more so in recent years due to the ongoing construction. This year, the Church has added metal snowflake sculptures and artificial trees to the display.

Even during the years when Goold was working elsewhere, making an annual trip to see the lights each Christmas has been a family tradition. “We went all the time,” Goold remembered.

His wife, Angela Oldroyd has her own special memories of seeing the lights at Temple Square and tossing a coin into the Seagull Fountain. "It was probably the highlight of the season with my family. I remember my dad giving us money. I was always so excited to make a wish, a Christmas wish,” she said.

Oldroyd is happy that Goold is enjoying his work. “Scott loves working in Temple Square,” she said.

“The environment is awesome, the best I’ve ever worked in. You would be surprised at how many people you meet,” he said of the tourists who walk through Temple Square every day.

Putting up the lights is a very special part of his job. “I’ve always been fascinated with the lights. It’s easy for me to get carried away,” Goold said. “You try to imagine how it’s going to look and see the branches in front of you. The idea is to turn how you hope it will look into reality. You become an artist.”λ