CEDAR CITY — Cedar City marked its 169th birthday Wednesday afternoon with two separate unveiling events a few blocks apart. Civic officials first celebrated a new art installation that highlights the area’s Native American heritage, then followed that with the rededication of a plaque commemorating the accomplishments of a noted tourism pioneer.
On top of it all was Veterans Day, which Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards mentioned during her brief remarks at both events.
“We can’t let today pass without recognizing our veterans and the contributions that our local veterans and (those) throughout our nation have made in securing our freedoms,” she said.
The first gathering took place near the corner of 100 West and Center Street, where a new public art installation was unveiled. The artwork, consisting of five graphic circles painted onto the side of a building, reflects the heritage and traditions of the native Paiute people. The five circles, representing the Sun God, Mother Earth, Cedar Band of Paiutes Medicine Wheel, the Three World and the Moon Lady, were painted by local artist Daniel Growler, a member of the Cedar Band of Paiutes Tribe.
Growler was on hand to talk about his work and to present commemorative posters to local elected officials and the approximately three dozen others in attendance. More information on the artwork can be found here.
The mayor said they were there to celebrate the culture and heritage of “these remarkable Americans who deeply enrich the quality and character of our nation.”
“It is time to celebrate the rich histories, diverse cultures, and important contributions of our nation’s first people,” she said.
Also speaking briefly were Iron County Commissioner Mike Bleak and Cedar City Council member Scott Phillips. Phillips noted that the installation is the fifth piece of recently commissioned public art within the city and the third one in the downtown area. The first one, a mural commemorating the railroad’s impact on early tourism, was dedicated a little over a year ago and is located right across the street to the north.
A short time later, the Iron County Visitor Center was the scene of a ceremony paying tribute to Randall Lunt Jones (1881-1946), widely regarded as being an instrumental figure in the early promotion of tourism to the Cedar City and Southern Utah area.
Jones helped build modern-day Cedar City, said Southern Utah University history professor Ryan Paul, who noted that among Jones’ many other accomplishments, he designed the El Escalante Hotel “that anchored this community for 50 years.”
“I think he’s more than just a photographer. He’s more than just an architect. He’s a storyteller. And the storytellers really are incredibly passionate about the stories they tell,” Paul said during his remarks.
Also speaking at the event was Jones’ descendant Lori Jones Sherman, who talked of her great-grandfather’s life and accomplishments.
“When he passed away in July of 1946, he had spent 65 years making significant contributions as a family man, educator, architect, photographer and a promoter of Southern Utah’s beauty,” Sherman said.
She then joined with several other family members in unveiling a marker highlighting the contributions of Randall L. Jones, which now sits in front of the visitors center.
The metal marker, first commissioned after Jones’ death in 1946, had originally been placed in front of the El Escalante Hotel, near where the Sizzler restaurant is currently located. It was then moved across the street to Main Street Park for about another 20 years before being removed during some renovations, after which it was never replaced, Paul said.
“It’s not that people did it on purpose. We just forget, right? Time moves on,” Paul said, adding that thanks to recent efforts by the Historical Preservation Commission, the Jones family and others, the marker is once again on full display, able to be seen and appreciated by members of the public.
“What greater spot, what greater honor to Randall Jones, than to put it here in this beautiful visitor center, where tourists come from all over the world to explore God’s gardens?” Paul added.
The light refreshments provided at both events included sugar cookies with frosting that said “Happy B-Day Cedar,” in recognition of the recognized founding date of Nov. 11, 1851, when Henry Lunt and other settlers arrived at the fort site during a blizzard, although the town itself was not officially incorporated until nearly seven years later, on Feb. 18, 1868.
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