HURRICANE – “Peach Days” has grown bigger over the course of its 19 years, but one thing has remained the same: its atmosphere as one big community reunion. The event started Thursday and will continue through Saturday.
Informally, the event truly is a reunion with family and friends. More formally, it is the time and location for reunions of many of Hurricane High School’s graduating classes. Peach Days is a time for nostalgia, reminiscing about bygone days, getting reacquainted with former neighbors and appreciating everything Hurricane has to offer.
Vendors line 100 West – which is closed for the event – and the Hurricane Community Center lawn selling everything from baby booties and princess dresses to Native American necklaces and vinyl-lettered wooden signs. Two stages present continuous entertainment, from youth dancing groups to local bands. Kids will enjoy the inflatables on the lawn north of the Fine Arts building.
In the Community Center, attendees will find displays of garden produce – from the titular stars of the show to enormous squash – as well as photographs, arts and crafts created by locals of all skill levels, from elementary-school students to seasoned professionals. The building also hosts an extensive model train display and is the venue for many Hurricane High class reunions.
Peach Days, first known as Elberta Day (named for a type of peach grown in the valley), has existed in one form or another since 1910, with the exception of a few off years, usually a result of a ruined fruit crop. In the early 1950s, the event ran into financial difficulties. The Washington County Commission stepped in, offering its financial support if the event became the Washington County Fair, so it then morphed into that.
From then on, Hurricane hosted the fair at several different locations, including the high school and middle school a few years until the Washington County Regional Fair Park was established and first hosted the fair in 1997.
Longing for the Peach Days of Hurricane’s early history, a group of residents got together, led by Tom Hirschi, who served as the city’s mayor from 2002-2014, and Jarolyn Stout to re-establish Peach Days in 1999.
Jola Holler was one of those founding committee members, and she still serves today as one of the directors of the information booth.
“I am so proud to represent a community who pulls together and has built this successful event,” Holler said. “We now even have tourists that plan their vacations to come through here over Labor Day to be a part of this heritage.”
One of the ways the event has gotten bigger over the years is the addition of an extra day on Thursday last year. Judging by the size of the crowds on Thursday night this year, it has been a welcome addition.
Due to Peach Days’ size, the fifth-largest such event in the state of Utah according to the Hurricane City Recreation webpage, one might worry that parking is a problem, but there is no need to worry. Free golf-cart shuttles make the rounds transporting visitors parked blocks away into the heart of the action.
“Peach Days is the biggest and most exciting community minded event of the year,” City Councilwoman Cheryl Reeve said. “I look forward to seeing friends and enjoying continuous entertainment.”
Ashlee Stout, who is in charge of her Hurricane High School Class of 1992 reunion this year, called Peach Days a “time to gather.”
“I love the excitement it brings as the town gets busy and full of families and friends that have moved away,” she said. “They all come back home to walk the streets, sit and listen to music, go to their class reunions and just be gathered together.”
Reeve and her husband, Charles, are in charge of the reunion rooms and said there will be 10 HHS class reunions this weekend. Many of the classes put together their own floats for the parade, which will be held Saturday at 9 a.m.
Amy Barney, the committee member in charge of the 12K Fun Run, said Peach Days is also perfect for bringing together the rest of the community.
“Peach Days is a great time for families to get together, to claim their own patch of lawn or gathering space and let the kids enjoy themselves, reuniting with old family, friends, and neighbors,” Barney said.
The Fun Run starts at the Community Center Saturday at 6:15 a.m.
Another event during Peach Days only happening on Saturday is the Pioneer Corner, located on the east side of the Community Center lawn near the Heritage Museum. Running from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Pioneer Corner will include demonstrations on blacksmithing, horseshoeing, different styles of quilting, soap making, rag-rug weaving, mountain man games, twining, water witching and cheese making. Additionally, a candy cannon will go off every hour.
Toni Imlay, the committee member in charge of the Pioneer Corner, said she liked how Peach Days gives outsiders a glimpse into life in Hurricane.
“It draws in so many neat people that are passing through to let them feel of the spirit of our amazing hometown,” Imlay said. “We have the yummiest peaches around, so we must share.”
For history buffs, there will three different hikes exploring the old Hurricane Canal from which to choose on Saturday morning.
“Canal lady” Laura Thomas will lead hikers on a 5.7-mile hike that will explore flumes and tunnels of the town’s former lifeblood, while Dr. Greg Last will lead a less-strenuous 4.5-mile hike. Thomas’s hike will depart from the Heritage Park at 6:25 a.m., and Last’s will depart at 6:30 a.m. from the same location. For those looking for a short hike, longtime Hurricane Elementary teacher Dan Zaleski will lead a short ¼-mile hike from the Canal monument at 200 N. 200 East starting at 7 a.m.
One signature event is the Peach Cook-off at 5 p.m. Saturday at the north side of the Community Center, in which community members face the judges with their favorite peach dish. Following the cook-off, the whole family can enjoy the rodeo at 7 p.m. at the rodeo grounds near the city pool. Even young children can get in the action at the rodeo through its mutton-busting and chicken-chasing events.
Fireworks shot from the HHS baseball field at 9:30 p.m. signal the end of the event.
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