Male belly dancers, motorcycles and mini-Corvettes on Main Street were the crowd-pleasers in a parade the Utah Shriners staged here Saturday in the second day of their annual convention.
About 500 members of the statewide El Kalah Shrine and their wives gathered through Sunday for activities that were highlighted Saturday afternoon by a riverside ceremony initiating 38 new members into the Ancient Arabic Order, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine of North America.Aaron E. Saathoff of Murray, potentate for Utah's El Kalah Temple, said Moab was chosen for the 1988 convention "because I love it here and it's very impressive.
"I was here 10 years ago - 1978 was the first time I saw it, and at that time I said if I ever become a potentate, we'll have it in Moab," Saathoff said Saturday. He became potentate of Utah's Shrine temple last January, and said the next potentate, Mel Walker of Ogden, has also declared intentions of holding the annual ceremonial in Moab in another three years.
"The country is fascinating . . . and to do a desert ceremonial in the aspects of Arabic-type motif, the logical place is to have it on the beautiful sands of the Colorado River at Locomotive Rock," Saathoff said.
Preceding the ritual was one of the most sophisticated Main Street processions Moab has seen, a punchy - and paunchy - "ceremonial parade" by more than 200 Shriners and candidate members of the service organization from Canada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nevada and California.
Shriner "nobility" in the procession included Edward G. McMullan, imperial potentate of the Al Azhar Temple of Canada; Clinton W. Joerding, potentate of the El Zaribah Temple of Arizona; and Edwin Kmak of Nevada, vice-commander of the International Shrine Aviation Association.
While spectators may focus on the elaborate and flamboyant Egyptian-style costumes the Shriners sport and wonder what would inspire such apparent silliness in men, members take the meaning behind the symbols very seriously, Saathoff said.
"The honor of being a Shriner is the support and dedication to the Shriner Hospital system," he said.
"The motto is, `A noble never stands so tall as when he stoops to help a crippled child.' That says it all."
The fall convention was the third held in Moab in 13 years by the Shriners, a philanthropic organization consisting of 190 units or "temples" in North America alone that support 22 Shriners Hospitals for Crippled and Burned Children.
While the parade Saturday was minuscule compared to the 14-hour spectacle the Shriners will stage next July in Toronto, the small turnout in Moab did not lack for enthusiasm, according to reaction afterward.
"I thought it was great. I love to watch a Shriners parade,"
said Izzy Nelson of Moab.
"I thought the belly dancers were fabulous and I loved all the little cars and I thought it was a very unique parade," said Debbie Oram, 36, of Moab,
"Only in America can intelligent, wealthy men ride around on motorcycles and little cars and make fools of themselves and have so much fun," said Cathy Mattingly, a downtown business owner.
Despite its small membership, Moab's Shriner club is unusually active and earned praise from the Canadian imperial potentate for a $1,875 contribution the local group presented to him toward purchase of a lift-equipped van to carry crippled children in Salt Lake City.
"It's a very small club with a limited method of fund raising; it's out of their own pockets or their own efforts," said McMullan, a visitor from Calgary, Alberta.