Fillmore spot for kickoff of centennial

Utah's first territorial capital was, fittingly, the kickoff spot for the state's year-long centennial celebration. And the folks in Millard County threw a party Jan. 2 to get things started with a bang.

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve, a member of the Utah Statehood Centennial Commission, joined with government leaders and thousands of other citizens who convened in Fillmore as the community of 2,000 rolled out the red carpet for its guests and doubled in size for a day.Activities included a Main Street parade of dignitaries in antique cars and buggies, with hundreds of flag-waving, balloon-releasing school children lining the route; a press conference and public reception hosted by Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt; an open house at the American Legion Hall with many clothed in 1896 period attire; a banquet feeding nearly 600 at the Fillmore Utah Stake center and Millard High School; the Utah Statehood Centennial Ball at five locations; and a colorful fireworks display at the Territorial Statehouse State Park.

Elder Ballard and his wife, Barbara, navigated the parade route in an antique car, bundled up to ward off the winter chill in the grayness of the late afternoon. They also participated in the other events throughout the evening before traveling two hours south to Cedar City late that night. The next morning, Elder and Sister Ballard spoke to about 1,200 young people at the Cedar City Institute before joining Gov. Leavitt and others on board a centennial train that traveled up the state to Salt Lake City, arriving the evening of Jan. 3. "You cannot really separate the 100 years of statehood from the Church because the state was settled by Church members," Elder Ballard noted prior to the parade in Fillmore. "The First Presidency has felt very good about having a member of the Twelve serve on the centennial commission. This service is helpful as it pertains to preparations for the sesquicentennial of the arrival of the pioneers, which is next year. I'm chairman of the sesquicentennial committee of the Church, and I am learning important things while participating in this celebration.

"I think this is a great celebration and marvelous thing for all of us to think about and be part of. Surely our pioneer forefathers are smiling upon these proceedings."

Many of the participants in the Fillmore events dressed in period clothing, adding to the ambience and authenticity of the celebration. Gov. Leavitt reminded one group of the inordinate amount of time it took to dress in 1890s clothing, and of the necessity of assistance to get everything put on just right.

Dressed in a striped, velvet-trimmed blue coat and formal turn-of-the-century suit, the governor spoke briefly to the media prior to the parade, which the couple led in a covered carriage pulled by a pair of huge Belgian draft horses. His wife, Jackie, was attired in a 1890s gown, cloak and long white gloves. Gov. Leavitt credited University of Utah's Pioneer Memorial Theater for their outfits.

"This is a moment we've all been waiting for," he said, calling the centennial a "time for thanksgiving for the wonders of the state, a time to reflect on the past and a time to plan for the future."

Another noted guest at the festivities was 102-year-old Bryant Larsen of the Delta 4th Ward, Delta Utah Stake. Born Nov. 16, 1893, in Millard County, Brother Larsen was presented a special centennial license plate from Gov. Leavitt at the banquet at the stake center. With a smile, he said he hoped to receive another one when Utah celebrates its second hundred years.

All food at the lavish roast beef banquet was grown, produced and prepared locally, including 90 pies for dessert. (See story this page.) Members of the Fillmore 4th Ward prepared and served a separate dinner to the visiting Eskdale (Utah) Orchestra, who couldn't stay for the banquet and had to travel more than 100 miles to their homes near the Nevada border after performing at the celebration.

Voluntarism was at its finest not only in meal preparation and service but throughout the Fillmore event, explained Millard County Centennial Co-chairman Gwen Hunter, a member of the Fillmore 4th Ward, Fillmore Utah Stake.

"We've had a really good planning committee and good subcommittees," she said. "When we got ready to put things together today, even more people stopped and helped, which was wonderful." Sister Hunter noted that volunteers came from throughout the county, and not just from Fillmore. While many of those people are LDS, people of all faiths and backgrounds pitched in, she said.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed