WEST JORDAN We are who we are, we are where we are, we are what we are because of those who came before.
"We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude for the pioneer legacy our ancestors left us," says Clive Romney, musician, producer, composer, arranger and a founder of the Utah Pioneer Heritage Arts association.
UPHA is an umbrella organization for groups and artists who preserve and perpetuate the cultural heritage of the past through music, dance, storytelling, poetry, drama and other artistic endeavors.
"It's so important to preserve that American cultural heritage," adds Shawnda Bishop, director of the folk dance group Clog America and also a founder of UPHA. "We especially want children to be exposed to these arts and traditions."
To that end, UPHA does outreach programs in the schools with fourth-graders.
It also sponsors an annual Frontier Fest at Gardner Village, which will be held June 13 and 14.
"We've expanded to a two-day event this year, and there are lots of exciting offerings old and new," she says.
The sights, sounds and color of the frontier will come alive as storytellers, re-enactors, musicians, contra dancers, square dancers, cowboy poets, songwriters, quilters and craftsmen of all types and ages perform and exhibit. There will also be concerts, games, food and fun, she says.
Events include the second annual Utah Pioneer Heritage Arts Songwriting Contest, Byron Old Time Music Festival, Olympus Storytellers Festival and a Youth Tall Tales Contest.
"We're very excited about the storytelling festival," Romney says. "Utah County has had that wonderful Timpanogos Festival, but there hasn't been anything in the Salt Lake Valley."
There will be a premiere of a film, "Life From the Crossroads of the West," a Clogging Showdown and a Little Buckaroo and Pioneer Parade.
Caboose, a folk ensemble comprised of Romney, Tom Hewitson, Rob Honey, Nate Olson and Daron Bradford, will perform Friday Night.
And on Saturday, there will be the premiere of a musical/drama titled "The Ghosts of Gardner Village," which will tell the stories behind many of the historical buildings at Gardner Village. Not only is there Archie Gardner and his mill, but also Hammie Orr's little St. John cabin, the widow Walker's house built from freighters' materials, the Johnsons' two-story cabin from Rush Valley and more.
"We'll tell the story of a little girl named Mary Ellen who walked across the plains at age 8," Romney says. "She walked behind a handcart and occasionally would hitch a ride, but her dad would blister her hide when she did, so she mostly walked the whole way. She later married and moved to St. John, and her cabin is now here. There are the most amazing stories behind these buildings."
Another activity is the minihandcart trek. For $5, families can rent a handcart to pull along a trail. At various stops along the way, re-enactors will tell stories about the handcart trek, talk about what you could take in the 17 pounds you were allotted and share other aspects of the trek.
There will be so much going on at the Fest, Romney says, "that you could spend all day, each day, and not go through everything." There is really something for everyone, he adds, and most of it is free. There will be a charge for special events held in the Gathering Center, but everything in the village is offered at no charge.
Sponsoring heritage groups putting on Frontier Fest include Associated Square Dance Clubs of Utah, Clog America, Freedom Motion Pictures, Heber Valley Historic Railroad, Old Time Utah Dances, The American West Heritage Center, The Pioneer Heritage Company, Utah Cowboy Poets, Utah Old Time Fiddlers, Utah Pioneer Heritage Arts and Utah Storytelling Guild. The official host of Frontier Fest will be Toker Timothy Many Hats, a mountain man, trapper, adventurer, storyteller and interpreter of American Indian cultures who "embodies the spirit of the frontier encountered by the pioneers."
It's a varied group, but they all have a common purpose, Romney says. They want to honor the people and traditions of the past and what they have given us.
"The pioneers jump-started the infrastructure we have," he says. "They were amazing colonizers and builders. What would you want to do if you walked 3,000 miles to get here? I'd want to rest. But not them. They jumped up and started building, started planting. They left a tremendous legacy of work and production."
But that's not all. "They also left a legacy of character. No matter what the odds, they overcame them. They left a legacy of ingenuity. We have all this technology to help us, but they had to come up with ways to do what they did and to do it better."
The pioneers left us a legacy of community "a sense of caring for each other. That's slipping away. We get so addicted to technology and get so busy with our lives we forget to go and help our neighbors, to be of service to them."
And, he adds, "They left us a legacy of arts. They left us their songs, their dances." And it is through those arts that the UPHA finds not only appropriate but also exciting ways to honor those legacies.
"It is so important, especially for our youth," Bishop says.
Knowing about the past "gives young people an identify. It gives them ways to express themselves and important things to think about. They need to learn the past to prepare for the future."
Clog America has taken part in folk festivals all around the world, she says. "Culture and tradition is such a big thing in other parts of the world. We were in Sardinia last year, and people there were surprised to find out that America had a cultural tradition. They think our culture is only what they see on TV."
But, she says, "we have a rich tapestry of culture that is woven together with all the threads brought to it by the heritage groups of UPHA."That's what the Frontier Fest is all about, she says. "We can learn so much from that tapestry. We can't let it unwind, or we will lose all the color and tradition of the past."
If you go . . .
What: Frontier Fest
Where: Gardner Village, 1100 W. 7800 South, West Jordan
When: Friday and Saturday, June 13-14, all day beginning at 10 a.m.
How much: Many activities are free; others range from $5 to $13 per person.
Tickets: For all ticketed events, tickets are available at www.SmithsTix.com