‘Way trickier than you think’: Santa Clara Glockenspiel goes into Halloween mode

SANTA CLARA — On the hour between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. atop Santa Clara Town Hall through Halloween, there’s something strange in the neighborhood. 

A mummy peers out as the Santa Clara Glockenspiel goes into motion, decorated for Halloween, Santa Clara, Utah, Oct. 21, 2021 | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

This is especially true around 5 p.m., when Ray Parker Jr. can be heard asking passing motorists on Santa Clara Drive who they’re gonna call. 

The Santa Clara Glockenspiel is in Halloween mode. 

While the person who dreamed up the Glockenspiel in the first place is no longer on the Santa Clara City Council, Mary Jo “Tode” Hafen is still very much involved in converting the traditional, life-sized Swiss misses and misters into something more ghoulish for trick-or-treat time.

“It’s way trickier than you think,” Hafen said. “It’s too much work but really gratifying. I love to go by and see the kids dance around.”

Santa Clara just marked the fourth birthday of the Glockenspiel, which was first unveiled in September 2017. That unveiling was the culmination of 12 years of work by Hafen to make the Glockenspiel happen atop the Town Hall, which itself was finished in 2008.

A close look at the figures reveals that they are much more than plastic and wood. Hafen herself actually makes the costumes in which they are adorned.

“She is the one who made the Glockenspiel even happen,” said Santa Clara Parks and Recreation Administrator Sherrelle Pontarelli, who aids Hafen in editing and getting the licensing for the music, which is digitally recorded, and making sure everything is working properly. 

A file picture of the Santa Clara Glockenspiel clock tower in its non-holiday form located at Town Hall, Santa Clara, Utah, Sept. 18, 2017 | Photo by Hollie Stark, St. George News

It may not be Christmas, but Hafen said she still hears occasionally from a grinch who complains about the Glockenspiel. But she adds that a large majority of what she hears is praise. 

“Some folks don’t like Halloween,” Hafen said. “I love Halloween, but you have to be careful not to scare the kids.”

The idea to changeover the Glockenspiel for holidays came about as a Christmas dare made to Hafen.

“The guy who made it challenged me, so I made Christmas costumes,” she said.

Either Hafen or workers with the Santa Clara parks department crawls up the attic of the Town Hall, then goes through a trap door to climb onto the roof. Hafen said it takes three to four hours to switch out the Glockenspiel to a holiday theme. 

The Glockenspiel is also decorated for Valentine’s Day and the Fourth of July. The Independence Day display is Hafen’s favorite, as the figurines are dressed for branches of the military. 

Undated photo of one of the Santa Clara Glockenspiel figures dressed up for Halloween, Santa Clara, Utah. | Photo courtesy of Mary Jo Hafen, St. George News

Even so, the figures themselves can’t be changed. So Hafen gets creative with the fabric clothing and other decorations. For Halloween, the bell-ringer becomes a scarecrow, using burlap to cover up the face and bells. The accordion player is wrapped in white fabric to become a mummy, ready to pounce. The swiss miss becomes a gothic witch, cradling her black cat. 

What is normally Swiss folk music is switched out for Halloween musical selections. To keep a variety, there are actually 13 separate musical selections, though each goes off at the same time each day. Come 5 p.m., Ray Parker Jr. is yelling, “Ghostbusters” across the Town Hall. 

The whole “performance” lasts about three minutes, but Hafen said she is gratified that the ghoulish Glockenspiel is putting a lasting smile on the faces of young and old.

“It’s a little fun thing we can do.”

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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