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News & Press: Annual Conference

Cedar City: UMA’s 2014 Annual Conference Home

Tuesday, September 16, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Ryan Paul
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Temperatures are cooling down and the 2014 UMA Conference is heating up here in Cedar City. It has been eight years since the Utah Museums Association had their 2006 conference in our fair city. Since then, Cedar City has broken ground on a new Shakespeare Theatre and an innovative art museumFrontier Homestead, my museum, has added additional historic structures, developed new activities, and relocated a twelve ton electric shovel to the grounds.

In Cedar City you will discover a unique small city complete with world-renowned theatricals, astounding beauty, unbelievable outdoor recreation, and of course, an amazing state park. I invite you to not only come to the 2014 UMA Conference to network and learn, but to experience all the field trips, Shakespeare, and downright awesome stuff we have to offer. Who knows? You may never want to leave!

Before you come and experience what we have for you, let us take a look back.

When iron deposits were found in southern Utah, Mormon leader, Brigham Young, called for volunteers to colonize the Iron County area. A site near Coal Creek was selected in November 1851 for the Iron Works. Originally called Little Muddy, then Coal Creek, Cedar City was named for the “cedar” trees in the area, though these trees are actually juniper. Ten months after site selection, the new colony completed a small blast furnace and began to operate the iron foundry. It was the first iron to be manufactured west of Missouri. Because of problems with the furnace, flood and hostility between settlers and Native Americans, the foundry closed in 1858. Unlike many small mining towns of that era, Cedar City continued to grow and prosper. Residents turned to farming and ranching for economic well being. Mining efforts began again to help provide much needed ore during WWII and continued until the 1980′s.

In 1897, the people of Cedar City learned that the Utah Legislature had authorized a school for higher learning in southern Utah. The community labored to construct the Ward Hall; however, after being in session only two months, the attorney general stated that the school had to have its own building on land deeded to the state. He said if the building was not erected by the following September, the school would be lost. At that point winter had set in and building materials were nonexistent. The residents of Cedar City soon planned to make the trek up the mountain to secure the necessary logs for the building.

For days the teams of wagons waded through one of the worst mountain snowstorms ever to hit Southern Utah. The snow was often shoulder-deep as the men pushed their way up the mountain toward the lumber mills. They slept in holes scraped out of the snow. After reaching the sawmill and gathering the necessary lumber, the men were discouraged with the realization that they now had to turn back. The wagons that could not make it were abandoned. Tired and frozen, the party felt they could go no further. It was then that an old sorrel horse proved invaluable. Placed out at the front of the party, the horse would walk steadily into the drifts, pushing against the snow, throwing himself into the drifts again and again until they gave way. When he paused to rest, he sat on his haunches the way a dog would. Then onward he would push. “Old Sorrel” was credited with being the savior of the expedition. In the fall of 1898 the building was complete. The people of Cedar City had persevered and finished the building known today as Old Main. A statue of “Old Sorrel” also stands as a monument to the dedication of a people and their commitment to education.

In 1913, the college became a branch of Utah State Agricultural College of Logan. In 1968, the legislature transformed it into a 4-year college of liberal arts and science with elementary and secondary teacher education programs. On January 1, 1991, it attained university status. In addition to being an educational haven, Southern Utah University is also the home of the world renowned and Tony Award winning Utah Shakespeare Festival.

The Union Pacific Railroad Company reached Cedar City in 1923. This contributed greatly to Cedar City’s growth in mining and agriculture, providing an outlet for the products of the iron mines as well as produce. The railroad exposed Utah’s National Parks to the world of tourism and Cedar City was dubbed “the gateway to the parks.”

UMA is excited to have our Annual Conference in Cedar City on September 30-October 2. Don’t forget to register! Pre- Registration ends on Friday, Sept 19. Check out the many great sessions, speakers, events, and opportunities to network in a wonderful location. There are some wonderful field trips on Tuesday morning to get the conference started, so come down Monday night and experience some of the unique things that make Cedar City the great place that it is.

Did I mention we have one of the coolest cemeteries in Utah?

Ryan D. Paul is the Past President of UMA. He is the curator at Frontier Homestead State Park in Cedar City. 



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