Perspectives: The Western Freedom Festival, why heritage matters

Image composite including graphics and photo of Darryl Worley from Western Freedom Festival Facebook page, St. George News

OPINION – When Pioneer Day is celebrated across state this coming Friday, it will be honoring the heritage of those who settled the Utah territory nearly 160 years ago.

Anyone who gets the day off or enjoys parades, festivities and fireworks can find a reason to appreciate the July 24th holiday. Meanwhile, skeptics who sourly fret over whether recognizing Mormon pioneers constitutes an official establishment of religion are missing the point.

The Pioneer Day holiday honors the values, courage, and unfailing determination shown by our ancestors. It is a recognition that the foundations for the beauty, peace and prosperity that we currently enjoy were laid by those who came before us.

Their efforts included deep personal sacrifices and a willingness to think and plan beyond the present. Even today, modern motorcycle riders still appreciate the wide old streets in St. George that were built wide enough to turn a team of horses and wagon.

There is much to appreciate about our heritage. Few things help us recognize its true value like experiencing it through the eyes of a visitor.

Last week I had that opportunity when I was invited to a dinner at the Diamond Z Ranch near Cedar City. Among the guests was country music artist Darryl Worley and a number of county commissioners from across the state, including Commissioners Alan Gardner from Washington County, Alma Adams and Dave Miller from Iron County, Mark Whitney from Beaver County, Leland Pollock from Garfield County, Phil Lyman from San Juan County, and commissioners from Weber County and Kane County; Washington County Administrator Dean Cox also attended.

Worley and his road manager Joe had flown out from Nashville earlier in the day to attend the gathering. The purpose of the dinner was to present the idea for a Western Freedom Festival later this fall.

Several of the commissioners took a few moments to share a few thoughts and Worley also spoke to us and performed his hit song “Do You Remember?”

As I looked around the small group, I saw a lot of cowboy boots, weathered faces and calloused hands. Though these men currently hold elected office, none of them are strangers to the kind of backbreaking work that has helped build Southern Utah.

As I listened to their remarks, it was clear that they were doing their best to represent the people of their respective counties. This is one of the strongest arguments for government that remains close to the people rather than governing from afar.

Each of those who spoke echoed a desire to keep alive the traditions of freedom, faith, family and economic prosperity. They spoke of the real harm being done to good people by overbearing and heavy-handed regulatory overreach.

These challenges are not easily understood by those who have not yet been directly affected by those policies. It was particularly revealing early in the evening when Worley asked the commissioners about this “BLM” they kept referencing.

Living in Tennessee, Worley pointed out that federal land managers there are extremely rare. This is true in most states east of the Mississippi River where state and private ownership of land is the rule and not the exception.

As Worley spoke to us, he marveled at the rich heritage we enjoy in this corner of the Beehive State. He affirmed that the most foundational institutions of America’s heritage of freedom are under nonstop attack across the nation today.

Long-held traditions are being regulated out of existence and for the first time in many generations, Southern Utahns are in danger of losing touch with their heritage. To help rekindle the sense of connection with our heritage, the Western Freedom Festival has been scheduled for Oct. 23 in Cedar City.

It is intended to be a rallying point for those who still cherish the core values of freedom, family, responsible stewardship, economic prosperity and the other traits that made Southern Utah. Darryl Worley will be the headline entertainer at the festival.

The Western Freedom Festival will help reinforce that there are many institutions besides politics that help shape our communities. It’s time to restore them to their proper place and function.

A people who do not remember where they came from are apt to forget who they are. Those who do not understand their own history become like little children who depend upon self-appointed experts to tell them what to think of themselves.

An effort to reprogram the thinking of Americans by attempting to cut them off from their history is already underway in many parts of the nation.

Consider attending the Western Freedom Festival in October and learn why the parts of our heritage that have made Southern Utah a great place to live will never go out of style.

Bryan Hyde is a radio commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.


  • Western Freedom Festival | Facebook page | Facebook event page | Website (construction in progress) | Twitter @WestFreedomFest
    • When: Oct.  23
    • Where: Centrum Arena at Southern Utah University, 351 W University Blvd, Cedar City
    • Description from the event’s Facebook page: “Celebrating the core values of Freedom, Family values, Enterprising Economy, Educated
      Electorate, Stewardship of Lands & Resources”
    • Featuring Darryl Worley

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  • KarenS July 20, 2015 at 10:26 am

    I checked out the facebook page of the Western Freedom Festival. As I figured, Ken Ivory of the American Lands Council is involved with it. He’s the guy who makes his living off of a sales pitch about “federal land grabs” to County officials all over the west, charging them “membership” for his “materials”. Frankly, I am glad to live in the West where most of the land belongs to all the people not just a few.

    A perfect example of why we don’t want local, ie, county commisioners, control of public lands is the land on the ridgeline of Snow Canyon State Park. If you have been in the canyon you have an ugly view of the houses from The Ledges peering over the edge. Even worse is the magnificent trail on the ridgeline above which had to be diverted to a steep goat path so these monstrosities could have their view of the park. This travesty was brought to you by our own county commissioners. Local control? Bah humbug! Hooray for the BLM!

    • anybody home July 20, 2015 at 11:06 am

      Yep, the good old boys are interested in making their big bucks out of development and they’ll develop the bejesus out of southern Utah every chance they get…more Shinola from B. Hyde and his buddies.
      And by the way, Bryan, if you want to see people who’ve really worked and fought for their territory, take a visit to Maine. Or the mountains of northeastern Oregon, where the cowboy boots, calluses and straight shooting are real. Part of the exceptionally narrow thinking around southern Utah is the exceptionally narrow lives the people lead. Of course, people who won’t even let their kids play with “outsiders” are not going to be open to new ideas. And in case we forget, the trolls here are quick to remind us.

      • Real Life July 20, 2015 at 2:38 pm

        Agreed. Some very greedy and shallow minded people in these parts.

  • fun bag July 20, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Gonna dust off my banjo and fiddle and I’m there…!

    • native born new mexican July 20, 2015 at 12:31 pm

      I will make my best effort to be there, Ken Ivory is doing a great thing. Good government is small local government. Fun bag is just making more inappropriate jokes so I don’t expect to see him there but i am sure I will see a lot of fine people that I know and like. I will also be participating in a parade on the 24th in remembrance of the faithful God fearing people who founded this state. They did a good job!

      • anybody home July 20, 2015 at 1:00 pm

        Just before the Mountain Meadow Massacre…those faith God-fearing people?

        • native born new mexican July 20, 2015 at 1:52 pm

          So the Mountain Meadow massacre is the ONLY thing that happened in Utah history and EVERY person in pioneer Utah knew about and participated in that. Really! get over it already. You are so biased and full of spite that you can’t even think straight. Why don’t you go read about what happened at Haun’s mill- but of course that does not matter because that was just Mormons and their children who were killed. In my very mixed family heritage I have some pioneer families who settled Sanpete
          County, ( that is where my Virginia confederates went after they lost their homes in the war.) They had nothing to do with Mountain Meadows. They were too busy building the Manti temple and then moving on to settle southern Colorado and northern New Mexico as well. You bet your life I honor and respect them. I exist because of them.

          • 42214 July 20, 2015 at 5:45 pm

            One of the lingering effects of Mtn Meadows was the utter cowardice involved in the crime. Flag of truce, disarm and execute. The Mormons make Pearl Harbor look like an honorable skirmish. Not to mention John D Lee taking the fall for old Brigham. Shameful, inexcusable act of barbarism and kidnapping of children.

          • anybody home July 20, 2015 at 8:57 pm

            Thanks for this 42214. Those who continue to try and justify this horrible act of cowardice and barbarism instead of acknowledging what it was seem just as cowardly to me.

          • mesaman July 20, 2015 at 9:04 pm

            Excellent reply. Of course the newbies and the Bammie chasing liberals will find fault with it. Makes me wonder why they ever left Fresno in the first place.

          • 42214 July 20, 2015 at 11:09 pm

            Mesa, the only fact I omitted was that the cowards blamed Indians for the crime. Where am I wrong? It took 150 years but you guys finally admitted it didn’t you?

      • fun bag July 20, 2015 at 3:06 pm

        new mexican, should I look for u there in your “Obama’s gonna take all the guns!” t-shirt or your “don’t forget about Benghazzi!” t-shirt??? Maybe you’ve got a ‘Obamacare death panels’ t-shirt as well?

  • Roy J July 20, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    I suppose this all depends on how you view the Mexican-American War. Some might argue that flooding California with English speaking settlers who deliberately agitated for union with the States and secession (more or less) from Mexico was an act of treason and/or despicably unneighborly actions. Or, you might argue that Mexico lost its right to California because it never properly colonized it (and there are many arguments in favor of this). But which side of that argument you inevitably fall on (or on neither, as I prefer to), is going to determine the answer to the question about heroic American pioneers.

    • anybody home July 20, 2015 at 5:59 pm

      Excellent point, Roy. And Utah was part of the old California. Most of the true history of the West is far from heroic.

      • Roy J July 20, 2015 at 6:40 pm

        Yep, I agree ANYBODY. Personally, I think the best spirit in which the West was brought further west was done by men like Blessed Junipero Serra, and also the Quebec Fathers Blanchet and Demers, Bolduc and Langlois. They attempted to bring the best fruits of Western civilization to the Indians themselves (and this included Catholicism). The missions of California and the Northwest are a stark contrast to the settlements of Spaniard and American alike. That’s my take on it, at any rate. 🙂

    • native born new mexican July 20, 2015 at 7:32 pm

      Roy I am from rural New Mexico. I know all about the land grabbing US government and it’s war of aggression. I have said before in a post that I am a mix of the three main groups who make up the population of New Mexico. My Family name is from south of the border. I can respect my US pioneers and still understand about what the US did to the New Mexico Hispanics when they grabbed their land grants. Not OK. It is not either or for me. Nor should it be. My family is my family all sides of it. I also have read much about those Spanish priests and their missions. I have been to their missions from Mexico to California.
      My view is those priests were very hard on my Indian ancestors – Spanish slaves. I think there were some good ones like Escalante and Serra but mostly they were pretty brutal. Most Mexican mestisos feel that way. The Catholic priests were nothing to brag about, nor were the brutal Aztecs or the Spanish soldiers. I don’t get to rewrite history. I just try to understand it and accept it. The Indians and the Spanish both are a part of me.

      • Roy J July 20, 2015 at 8:26 pm

        NATIVEBORN, I can’t claim any ancestry in this matter, just a wide number of perspectives that I have read. There alot going to say for or against both sides in the Mexican-American War, and there is sometimes, in some cases, alot that can be said against Catholic priests during that war, and before it. Perhaps the worst Mexican offender was Miguel Hidalgo, perhaps the best of the California Founding Fathers was Blessed Serra. Indian slavery was abhorrent, and so far as I have read, it was utterly reprehensible and the Catholic Church in New Spain, and later Mexico, fought hard against it. There’s an excellent old history by Bishop Francis Kelley on this very subject; Bishop Kelley was a man who was very much alive to the problems with the American West. You can find excerpts from the book here:

        • anybody home July 20, 2015 at 9:06 pm

          This is one of the best, most thoughtful conversations I’ve read in SGN comments from both of you Roy and Native Born. Truly. Few of us have perfect ancestors and history…the best we can do,it seems to me, is to be honest with ourselves about the shortcomings of those who came before instead of defensive and lead the best lives we can during our own time on the planet – honest, generous, kind. In this, we may do our best although we have all come short of the glory of God. Blessings to all tonight.

        • native born new mexican July 20, 2015 at 10:03 pm

          Thank you Roy for an interesting conversation. I have done much study in the part of Mexico where that side of my family lived for centuries. In that place the priests were very hard on the Indians. They forced them to move to the missions, live in Spanish planned communities under military control, build the missions and so on. My grandfather taught me the saying ” the sword or the cross.” That is how it went in the Mexico that my family comes from. In New Mexico it was similar. Hispanics are very mixed with the genetics of the plains Indians because of the slave trade between Indian tribes and between Indians and the Hispanic settlements. Along with the buying and selling of people went intermarriage. The catholic church is mixed into all this as well. I grew up with plenty of stories about who the priests were and what they did. Mostly we kept the peace in our small community be not talking about that in places where it might cause hard feelings.

          • Roy J July 21, 2015 at 7:26 pm

            Thanks to you as well! It is certainly nice to agree, in some senses, once in awhile on here. Regards.

  • beentheredonethat July 20, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    They celebrate it in Illinois and California! !!! In Illinois beecause they got rid of the Mormons. And California parties it up because they didn’t make it that far!

    • mesaman July 20, 2015 at 9:07 pm

      And the dregs of both states migrated to Southern Utah where they find time to whine and complain and make the democrat party proud of them. All 25 of them.

      • Californicater July 20, 2015 at 10:02 pm

        There aren’t 25….

      • native born new mexican July 20, 2015 at 10:06 pm

        Ha Ha mesaman- funny funny!

    • AnotherReader July 20, 2015 at 9:31 pm

      Honestly then, wouldn’t you rather be in Illinois or California? Maybe you’d be a bit happier and less of a jackazz.

      • 42214 July 20, 2015 at 11:12 pm

        The cum laude of BYU is back. You misspelled jackass.

    • fun bag July 20, 2015 at 11:00 pm

      That’s the thing about mormons is that they’re offended so easily. Can’t take a little poking fun at their goofy belief system. Would be nice to see them lighten up a bit, or I guess we can always pass around a box of crying towels to soothe all the butt-hurt 😉

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