Imposing wall encloses FLDS meeting house; Colorado City sees biggest bash in 13 years, 4th of July; STGnews Videocast

COLORADO CITY, Ariz. — A high wall encloses the Colorado City Leroy S. Johnson meeting house of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in stark contrast to an open gathering of residents, past and present, streaming into nearby Cottonwood Park on Academy Avenue Saturday for the biggest celebration the town has seen in 13 years.

Left: Wall appears to be complete on July 4 surrounding the Leroy S. Johnson meeting house of the FLDS Church, built without explanation to the public during the week of July 1, some say in response to a Short Creek community 4th of July celebration. Colorado City, Arizona, July 4, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick, St. George News
Left: Wall appears to be complete on July 4 surrounding the Leroy S. Johnson meeting house of the FLDS Church. Colorado City, Utah, July 4, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick, St. George News

Contrasts

Large numbers of men and boys of the FLDS church that yet answers to its now imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs worked throughout the week to construct the new wall around the meeting house.

Some speculated the wall was built in response to the forthcoming Independence Day Celebration organized for the Short Creek largely polygamous community of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City.

Community volunteers put in countless hours over the last few months putting together the Independence Day Celebration themed “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

A banner hangs over the entrance to Colorado City's Independence Day celebration, Colorado City, Arizona, July 4, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick
A banner hangs over the entrance to Colorado City’s Independence Day celebration, Colorado City, Arizona, July 4, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick

Independence Day Celebration

The celebration started at 6:30 a.m. with a flag raising ceremony, followed by breakfast and then lunch. There were bounce houses set up and the small train around the park gave kids rides throughout the day.

While the organizers originally thought 200 or 300 people might attend, the final count ended up at about 3,500, event volunteers said.

Attendees traveled from as far as Canada and Mexico to attend, Jesse Barlow, a community volunteer, said. This includes people who left the community and thought they would never return, he said.

People come and go at the Fourth of July celebration, Colorado City, Arizona, July 4, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick
People come and go at the Fourth of July celebration, Colorado City, Arizona, July 4, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick

“It’s been a time to heal for a lot of people,” Jesse Barlow said. “… A lot of people that were from this community have come back to see friends and family, some that haven’t seen people for 15, 20, even 25 years.”

The theme of the day seemed to be healing and unity, as a community torn apart by religious differences came back together.

It was an opportunity for the community to learn to love and respect each other, Jesse Barlow said.

In fact, while Colorado City resident George Jessop and his wife, Miriam Jessop, organized everyone, Jesse Barlow said, the celebration was the product of volunteer work and donations from people all around the town.

Park visitors before the event

Children play at Cottonwood Park in the biggest celebration the town has seen in 13 years, Colorado City, Arizona, July 4, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick
Children play at Cottonwood Park in the biggest celebration the town has seen in 13 years, Colorado City, Arizona, July 4, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick

Not everyone in the town was as open to the gathering it seems, as bouts of vandalism plagued the set-up of the event in the days leading up to the holiday.

On multiple occasions, someone snuck into Cottonwood Park at night, and performed acts of vandalism such as smashing in windows on the small kiddie train that surrounds the park.

There were even late-night visitors to the park the night before Independence Day, Henry Barlow, a volunteer with the event, said.

“We made a few new friends in the middle of the night,” he said. “… It’s just somebody stretching out where they can under cover of darkness; but they’re not bad people, they just need to have a chance to do a little bit of good in the world.”

The wall

Many believe members of the FLDS church built the wall around the nearby meeting house in response to the party.

Hundreds of men and boys worked tirelessly tearing down an existing wall around the Leroy S. Johnson meeting house since Wednesday night, and replacing it with the now higher and more foreboding block wall.

The wall might have been in response to the popularity the party gained, Isaac Wyler, a consultant with the United Effort Plan trust, said.

Wall nears completion on July 4 surrounding the Leroy S. Johnson meeting house of the FLDS Church, Colorado City, Arizona, July 4, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick, St. George News
Wall nears completion on July 4 surrounding the Leroy S. Johnson meeting house of the FLDS Church, Colorado City, Arizona, July 4, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick, St. George News

However, Willie Jessop, ex-FLDS member and former bodyguard for Warren Jeffs, said the wall was a reaction to his plans to get ownership of the building in partial settlement of a $30 million judgment he won against FLDS church leaders in 2011.


Read more: Hundreds of FLDS members work to build wall around meeting house


Wyler said he guessed, however, that they would try to have the wall built by July 4, and his prediction proved true. While a few men were still doing some final work on the wall the afternoon of the party, the wall was built and gates were up around it.

Attendees chat and catch up during the Fourth of July festivities, Colorado City, Arizona, July 4, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick
Attendees chat and catch up during the Fourth of July festivities, Colorado City, Arizona, July 4, 2015 | Photo by Nataly Burdick

Community reunites

There is no doubt, however, that the event was a success overall.

For Colorado City resident Cynthia Wayman Barlow, the most important part was seeing people from diverse backgrounds and beliefs come together and celebrate.

“In coming back together, they’re finding out … that we’re all the same,” she said. “… There was such an intense feeling of camaraderie. There was a friendly air and I didn’t see there being any tension.”

Related Posts                                                                           

Email: nburdick@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!

Posted in NewsTagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments

  • Real Life July 6, 2015 at 12:58 am

    pedophile: one who has sexual interest in children

  • Real Life July 6, 2015 at 1:04 am

    I don’t know why you sick bastards are building a wall out there, you molesters have been getting away with it for decades. After all, who is going to get you? Surely not your fellow brethren.

  • fun bag July 6, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    Now that they got a big wall to hide behind they think it’ll be safe to continue molesting little girls…

Leave a Reply