SALT LAKE CITY — From ranching and mining to the early days of Salt Lake City, as well as the "Downtown Rising" revitalization under way today in the city's center, Utah history and "Eyes Westward" are the focus of an active agenda as members of the Sons of Utah Pioneers gather Aug. 25-27.
The convention, sponsored by SUP's Holladay Chapter, is in Salt Lake City for the first time in 18 years, notes Mary Ellen Elggren, a member of the convention committee and a featured speaker. SUP conventions wander far afield year to year, from Utah communities such as Logan, Ogden, Heber and St. George; to St. Johns and Mesa, Ariz.; Squaw Valley, Calif.; and even that American history keystone, Philadelphia, she says.
Convention events include tours of the renovated Salt Lake City-County Building and Utah state Capitol, visits to Temple Square and the LDS Conference Center, and excursions to the Great Salt Lake and both the Oquirrh and Wasatch Mountain ranges. Business meetings and humanitarian projects are also planned.
Ron Van Leuven, SUP's executive manager, says 250 to 300 people are expected to participate during the three days in the Salt Lake area. Activities are open to anyone interested in Utah history — SUP bylaws have not required members and participants to be descendants of early settlers since 1978, Elggren says.
Although both her family and the family of her husband, John Elggren, have roots in the SUP, the couple did not join the Holladay Chapter until last year, Mary Ellen Elggren says. "Oh, how we are enjoying the monthly dinners with guest speakers that have expanded our appreciation for the pioneer sacrifices, accomplishments and triumphs. We love our old friends, but now we have wonderful new friends too, and we have reconnected with some of our old friends we haven't seen for many years when we attend SUP conferences and excursions."
The Marriott University Park Hotel in Research Park and This Is the Place Heritage Park will serve as gathering places and staging grounds for convention activities.
The first convention dinner, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, will be at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, formerly Hotel Utah — a historic facility celebrating its centennial this year. The speaker will be Ted Jacobsen, of Jacobsen Construction. He will describe the extensive City Creek Center retail, office and condominium project, due to be completed in 2012, and other projects central to the city's history, including restoration and earthquake retrofitting of the City-County Building, the Capitol and the Salt Lake Tabernacle. A Tabernacle Choir performance will follow at 7:30 p.m. at the LDS Conference Center. Earlier in the day, Bradley R. Cairns will lead a tour of a modern pioneering effort, the cancer research under way at the Huntsman Cancer Center at Research Park.
Participants have a choice among three bus tours on Friday, Aug. 26, all beginning at 8:45 a.m. at This Is the Place Heritage Park, with a train ride and introduction by Paul Thomas Smith, Mary Ellen Elggren says.
With a stop at the Wilford Wood Museum in Bountiful, one excursion will head to the historic Fielding Garr Ranch at Antelope Island State Park, which served as a tithing ranch and component of the Perpetual Emigration Fund of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Another tour, with commentary by Ron Anderson, is to historic sites in Salt Lake City, such as the City-County Building, the Wilford Woodruff home and the Masonic Temple. A third tour, led by Smith, digs into "Military, Mountains & Mines," with stops by Fort Douglas, Gardner Village, Kennecott Copper's gargantuan open-pit mine in the Oquirrhs on the valley's west side, and the Temple Quarry on the valley's east side.
After the tours, Friday's dinner will be at 5:30 p.m. at This Is the Place Heritage Park, with speakers Mary Ellen Elggren, of the Brigham Young Family association, and Gracia Jones and Michael Kennedy, of the Joseph Smith Jr. Family association. They will discuss efforts to "Bridge the Gap of False Traditions" between two founding families of the LDS Church.
The convention will conclude Saturday, Aug. 27. Elder Ben Banks, an emeritus general authority who directs VIP hosting for the LDS Church, will address a spouses meeting. A luncheon will feature Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and historian Reid Neilson of the LDS Church History Department. Music, much of it on period instruments, will be a part of many of convention meetings.
Registration and booking are available before the individual events, including Friday's bus tours, or online at www.sonsofutahpioneers.org. A detailed tour itinerary is also on the SUP Web site, at www.sonsofutahpioneers.org