Hildale mayor says city events are ‘creating a place of belonging’

ST. GEORGE — As Hildale wraps its lineup of fall events, Hildale City Mayor Donia Jessop said these events are part of a larger goal the City Council set years ago.

Hildale Mayor Donia Jessop and Colorado City Mayor Howard Ream welcome people to the first Hildale City Fall Fest, Hildale, Utah, Oct. 7, 2023 | Photo courtesy of Donia Jessop and Sirenne Barlow, St. George News

“In the very beginning, when the new council back in 2018 started … our goal was to build community,” she said.

As part of this, she said they brainstormed ideas to build a safe place for children to interact and help the community continue to heal from the past. Several annual events resulted from these discussions and have been supported by neighboring Colorado City, Arizona. Previously held were the Christmas tree lighting in December, a pancake breakfast on Mother’s Day weekend and the Fourth of July Celebration in July.

On Oct. 7, the city held its first Fall Fest, which had over 400 people and 10 vendors. Next, the city will hold its first Spring Fling in March, which will feature similar activities as the Fall Fest, including a dance.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and impacts from governmental decisions, events they planned in 2018 saw extensive delays. As a result, the city also implemented a new event policy to help navigate future difficulties.

Besides the main events planned by Hildale City, with the support of Colorado City, three other events have become annual traditions for the community.

(L-R): Hildale Councilman Terrill Musser, Colorado City Fly-in event c0-creator Darlene Stubbs, Colorado City Vice-Mayor Dalton Barlow, and Lawrence Stubbs pose at the Colorado City Municipal Airport Fly-in and Airshow, Colorado City, Ariz., Sept. 30, 2023 | Photo courtesy of Darlene Stubbs, St. George News

In its third year, the Colorado City Municipal Airport Fly-in and Airshow, held Sept. 30, had over 2,500 attendees, an increase of about 500 from last year’s festivities.

The Colorado City Municipal Airport hosted the event after being named Arizona Airport of the Year for 2023, which added an extra celebration with 27 aircraft and 150 children participating in a candy drop.

“The pilots and general public had a great time and they are looking forward to next year’s event already,” Darlene Stubbs, Fly-in event co-creator and airport board member, told St. George News.

Jessop said the Fly-in and the Renaissance Faire are about bringing people in to “experience our community” and see how it is now.

“It is all about coming together and celebrating together, giving them that sense of belonging,” she said.

The Medieval Renaissance Faire coordinator Alec Cox agreed with Jessop on the reasoning behind him bringing the event to fruition.

“The whole purpose is to bind the rifts in the community and to provide them entertainment that you (usually) have to go to (Las) Vegas or Salt Lake to get,” he said. “It is for the community.”

About 2,200 people attended the Renaissance Faire this year. While the event saw fewer attendees than last year, Cox said lack of affordability was a reason for the slight decline in attendance due to several factors, such as the higher cost of living. Also, last year’s event was free. This year the cost to attend was $12 per person, except for children age 5 and under.

The increase in cost was essential to cover costs, said Cox, adding that the event featured a better quality of entertainment and shows than last year. And compared to similar entertainment in bigger cities, he was happy they could offer this event at a more affordable price than what you might find in Salt Lake City.

Children practice sword fighting skills at the Medieval Renaissance Faire in Hildale, Utah, Sept. 30, 2023 | Photo courtesy of Whitnie Barlow, St. George News

One of the other events that is largely community-rooted is the Colorado City Music Festival, which has been going on for nearly eight years. The annual festival is held in the late spring and brings in some of the biggest up-and-comers in the music industry. Considering its recent success, event organizers say they are now contemplating expanding to more than one day.

In the past, Jessop said they received complaints from people who were afraid of change and expressed some opposition to events like the music festival. However, she said, change is going to happen regardless and it is better to get ahead of it and set the tone. But these complaints have since dwindled, likely due to people seeing the positive impact events have had on the community.

“We are creating a place of belonging,” Jessop said.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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