CEDAR CITY — One of the most iconic and life-altering events in America’s history was the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, commemorated on May 10, 1869, where the two railroad lines met in Utah with the driving of the Golden Spike.
According to a press release from the Visit Cedar City & Brian Head Tourism Bureau, in an effort to celebrate this tremendous occasion, “Spike 150” activities have been organized across the state to take place throughout 2019. Among these activities is a weeklong celebration in Cedar City starting Saturday in correlation with the opening of the Spike 150 traveling exhibit, “A World Transformed: The Transcontinental Railroad and Utah,” at the Southern Utah Museum of Art in Cedar City. All activities will be free to the public.
Iron County historian Ryan Paul said the Cedar City Spike 150 celebration is a salute to Cedar City’s extensive railroad history.
“The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad was pivotal to the early settlers of Cedar City,” Paul said in the press release. “The Utah Central Railroad began to stretch to the south and with very extension shortened wagon travel and shipping into the region. Freight trains hauled more mining materials and Hollywood came to town thanks to brothers Gronway, Chauncey and Whitney Parry, who enticed filmmakers to use the areas scenic resources for movie locations.”
Maria Twitchell, executive director of the Tourism Bureau, said that the rails also brought people in to see the sites for recreational purposes.
“Rail traffic also brought thousands of tourists to the area each year to see the national parks of southwestern Utah and northern Arizona, and Cedar City became known as the ‘Gateway to the National Parks.'”
Celebration events begin Saturday from 2-4 p.m. with the opening of the Spike 150 exhibit at SUMA, located at 13 S. 300 West in Cedar City. This traveling exhibition shares the story of Utah’s contribution to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad and examines the railway’s transformational effects on Utah.
The exhibition draws upon the many rich historical resources held by different institutions across not only Utah but the western United States, including photographs, maps, art and lithographs. There will also be a railroad display, live music and activities for the opening. The exhibition runs through Dec. 28th.
Also on Saturday will be the screening of the classic Cecile B. Demille film “Union Pacific,” which was filmed in Iron County. State historian and author James D’ Arc will give a presentation on Utah’s film history, and there will also be a premier of the Utah Film Commission short film on Iron County’s film history. This event will be held at the Cedar City Visitor Center, located at 581 N. Main at 6:30 p.m.
On Tuesday at 4 p.m., there will be a Gallery Talk at SUMA, featuring a walking tour of the exhibit with Paul. Attendees will learn more about the imagery and artifacts found in the exhibition.
While all activities are open to any age, one of the events is specifically geared at the kids. At the weekly “Wonder Wednesday” at SUMA, school children grades K-5 are invited to spend their early-out Wednesday at SUMA for railroad-themed activities from 2-4 p.m.
Wednesday evening, the Iron County Historical Society will hold a guest lecture on Iron County’s rich railroad history at 7 p.m. at the Frontier Homestead State Park Museum, 635 N. Main Street in Cedar City.
The celebration culminates on Thursday with a downtown mural unveiling and celebration at 4 p.m. at 98 W. Center St. in Cedar City. The mural will honor the lasting impact of the Utah Parks Company and Union Pacific Railroad in building Cedar City’s strong tourism industry. Food, entertainment and a commemorative gift will be part of the festivities.
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