IVINS CITY — Aside from spotting a few extra helicopters or black SUVs with escorts traveling around town, it might have seemed like any other weekend in the St. George area.
But it wasn’t just any other weekend; it was a weekend leading up to a historical event.
The inauguration of Utah’s governor – an event that takes place every four years and usually reserved for the front steps or rotunda of the State Capitol up north in Salt Lake City – took place Monday at Tuacahn Amphitheatre.
Gov. Spencer Cox’s swearing-in was by no means the Olympics, but one might still be hard-pressed to find many other far-reaching political events as a gubernatorial swearing-in in Southern Utah’s history.
The archives of the Washington County Historical Society mention a visit nearly 100 years ago by President Warren Harding in 1923 with an entourage that included future President Herbert Hoover, but they never got as far south as St. George — sticking in Cedar City and Zion National Park and passing through Toquerville and Springdale.
But as far as major political events that might make Wikipedia, this was the St. George area’s chance to shine.
Jon Pike, in his last hours as mayor of St. George, said he couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride.
“I loved it. And I loved that the governor spoke about loving this particular spot of Earth,” said Pike, who was already packed for a journey up to the state capital after the ceremony to become insurance commissioner in the Cox administration (he will still be mainly based in St. George). “What a thrill to be here.”
While not the first place outside Salt Lake City to host a Utah gubernatorial inauguration – Fillmore was the capital of the Utah Territory from 1851 to 1856 – Tuacahn made a strong case for being the most majestic setting for one.
While not a stranger to the area – his brother and sister live here — Utah Senate President J. Stuart Adams said he felt awestruck by the setting that had the red sandstone mountains of Snow Canyon as a frame to the pomp and circumstance.
“It’s stunning. How do you get a better setting than this?” Adams said. “There couldn’t be a more stunning setting than this.”
While the moment was loud in the effect it would have on the transfer of power in the state’s highest office, the setting in the Amphitheatre had the stillness and silence of a state funeral.
At the top of the ceremony, it wasn’t hard to hear Utah PBS anchor Liz Adola starting the statewide broadcast of the event, let alone the songs of the Snow Canyon sparrows, despite 675 physically-distanced people who were all wearing red wristbands denoting they had received negative COVID-19 tests in the last 24 hours.
Even the ceremony itself had a quiet reverence that was only broken by the 19-gun salute after Cox was sworn in that felt like it must have been heard on St. George Boulevard 10 miles away.
It was the kind of crowd one might find at the Met for an opera rather than the typical political event, in sharp contrast to the demonstrations on the road leading up to Tuacahn. The only whoops and hollers were heard when re-elected Attorney General Sean Reyes entered the stage and at the close of Cox’s inaugural address.
Weather, cited as one of the factors to give Salt Lake City the year off and give Southern Utah a shot, wasn’t as much a factor. The 45 degrees in Ivins City on Monday morning wouldn’t be described as balmy and wasn’t far off from the 39-degree morning in Salt Lake.
As the event rolled along, clouds rolled in to create an overcast that was more indicative of Salt Lake City skies than Southern Utah.
But the view couldn’t be beat.
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