OPINION – The feud between the City of St. George and the Heart of Dixie event management and promotion company has worsened to the point that when event coordinator Jared Keddington put together last week’s New Year’s Eve bash, he took the event to a place called The Venue in Mesquite.
The city and Heart of Dixie had a major clash not long ago when the company tried to promote a dance in St. George, only to be shut down by the police over a specious conflict regarding permits.
Heart of Dixie went looking for a new facility for last week’s New Year’s Eve event, which was held in the Washington City Community Center the last two years. They wanted something with a different vibe, classier feel, and fewer restrictions.
Because of what happened with their dance event, Keddington told me, “We didn’t even attempt to do it in St. George.”
And, that’s a shame.
If anything, the city needs more events, not fewer.
St. George, at one time, hosted First Night, a New Year’s Eve celebration that, quite frankly, fell far short of being a full-fledged New Year’s Eve celebration.
It started way too early and ended long before the New Year arrived in Southern Utah. As New Year’s Eve parties go, it was a bust.
The thing is, there was no public input.
The First Night organizers put together a “committee” to oversee the event, but decisions were made before the committee’s first meeting. Instead of planning the event, the city put the arm on the committee members, drawn from local businesses, for sponsorships and donations. The only input the city was looking for was the input of dollars and items to put on the event.
“It was lame,” according to everybody I talked to – both young and old – who attended.
Heart of Dixie tried to put together a community celebration, but let’s face it, a community center isn’t exactly the place to ring in the New Year. Chuck E. Cheese would be more fun.
Now, I realize St. George will never challenge Times Square or Fremont Street when it comes to New Year’s Eve celebrations, but, it can certainly do better, and, by the looks of it, the Heart of Dixie people had a pretty cool event planned, much better than the city’s previous First Night offerings.
Why? Because no matter where they are located, city officials are not good at planning civic events. They just don’t have the creativity or manpower to pull it off, so most hire companies to plan, organize, and execute their celebrations, taking into consideration what would appeal to everybody, and not just a bunch of uptight cronies who happen to hold all the power and have a peculiar take on what is fun.
The city misses the mark by not turning what few major events it hosts into real celebrations.
I mean, why isn’t there a big blow-out celebration when the runners come to town for the marathon? Why are the opening ceremonies for the Senior Games so tame? Our neighbors to the north in Cedar City know how to host a decent party and they do so each year when they throw a nice bash for the opening of the Utah Summer Games. It’s a big deal with bands and guests people have actually heard of and one of the best fireworks displays I have seen anywhere, period.
But, where Cedar City is smart is that it turns the event over to people who have experience at doing such things, a crew that has worked for years at putting on a good show that has something for everybody. I know those folks and respect the effort they put into their event each year.
St. George isn’t Mayberry any more, it is a growing metropolitan community, gaining in not only size but diversity, yet the city insists on serving up vanilla events.
Marc Mortensen, assistant to the St. George City Manager, says the city isn’t opposed to big events, but that it just doesn’t want events that create parking issues or impact neighbors.
Know what? Keep putting on lame events and there is no need to worry about that because there won’t be enough people in attendance to create a parking problem or impact the neighbors.
I have to suspect that Keddington is right when he says there is some “political discrimination” that has made it so difficult for Heart of Dixie. I know of four major musical acts that, over the last 20 years, put out feelers to perform in Southern Utah – Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, and Bob Dylan. The artists were looking for intimate venues in places they had never performed, but never signed for a variety of reasons ranging from a university president’s disdain for rock ‘n roll music to people in charge of one facility not knowing who Dylan was when his road manager called while Dylan was on tour and looking for a pickup gig.
That’s why the city needs to look outside of its narrow scope and turn over event planning to those capable of making better decisions.
Tuacahn got the message and has broadened its scope in recent years, bringing in a wider range of entertainment – a vast improvement over the time when it played “Utah!” for several successive years. The plays offered there now are more entertaining, more artistic in nature, have more substance. Though not quite at the level of their long-established neighbors at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, they are upping the bar.
St. George City?
Not so much.
Since the conflict over a dance permit not long ago, the St. George City Council has worked to change things. It needs to step in here and settle this nonsense with Heart of Dixie.
There is no reason why entertainment dollars should go out of town and, besides, St. George could use a good party.
- Ring in the new year at Heart of Dixie’s 18+ New Year’s Eve party, Mesquite
- The Heart of Dixie, Washington City Community Center hosts New Year’s bash; dancing and family fun
- To dance, or not to dance? Council considers changes to event permit process
- Protesters fight for their right to dance; STGnews Videocast
- On the EDge: Let those young people dance
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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