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Avalanche of Suds: Beerfests Take Over the Utah Mountains

Three people sit with beers at Deer Valley Beerfest in Utah
Photo courtesy Deer Valley Resort

There’s something about autumn’s approach that triggers a thirst. Specifically, the thirst for a frosty beverage in the hills. Parched from a summer under the hot sun, people suddenly unleash their inner lederhosen like we’re on holiday in Bavaria. Fortunately, Utah mountains abide such behavior, playing host to numerous beer-laden festivities at resorts throughout the Beehive State.

The real Oktoberfest, the one over in Munich, starts in the middle of September. We get things started a little earlier around to stay ahead of early autumn snowfall we tend to get at higher elevations as soon as the leaves change color. Check out these Utah mountain beerfests to make the most of late summer weather and enjoy Utah’s resorts in the offseason.

Snowbird: The Original Utah Oktoberfest

Utah was about 160 years late to the whole Oktoberfest thing, but the state’s first Bavarian-style festival is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year at Snowbird. Starting Saturday, Aug. 13, the festival will take over the resort every weekend from noon until 6 p.m. through Oct. 16.

As is tradition, the beers will be plentiful with more than 50 varieties from German-style originals to homegrown Utah specials from local breweries. Beyond the brews there is plenty to enjoy at Snowbird, including delicious German fare like bratwurst, weisswurst, strudel, spaetzle and more; live polka music in the Oktoberfest Halle and an Alphorn performance atop the Tram at 3:00 p.m. each day.

Parking is $10 per vehicle, but admission is free, and you can bring any prior year’s Oktoberfest mug to reuse so you can get the refill price from the very first sip. Two months of suds are here at Snowbird’s Oktoberfest. More information is available here.

Snowbasin: SnowWiesn Oktoberfest

Further north, Snowbasin is getting in on the German-themed fall festival action themselves with the SnowWiesn Oktoberfest. Every Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. this fall, beginning Sept. 4, there will be a host of festivities for attendees.

Snowbasin is serving up all the classic Bavarian food and beverages you’d expect, along with daily concerts and some unique games and competitions. Of note, the traditional stein holding endurance competition, Masskrugstemmen, will be held at 2:30 each Sunday at the concert stage. A $40 competition entry includes a 24-ounce glass mug with beer, a t-shirt and a coaster. If you’ve already purchased a collectible mug, it’s $30. You can also compete in some Hammerschlagen with your friends by driving nails into large tree stumps, which is free after you sign a waiver.

Of course, there are concerts as well. There’s now a $10 fee to attend a single day concert, or you can purchase a $75 summer concert pass for all of them. Premier season pass holders receive free entry to the summer events. Complete concert schedule and full details are available here.

Deer Valley: Mountain Beer Festival

Okay, this one isn’t explicitly Oktoberfest themed, but Deer Valley is hosting a celebration of local Utah brewing culture in the mountains this summer. On Sept. 17 and 18 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., the inaugural Mountain Beer Festival is taking place at Silver Lake Lodge.  

More than a dozen Utah breweries, from pioneering types like Squatters and Uinta to upstarts like Park City’s Offset Bier, will be serving up locally made suds. Musical acts curated by Mountain Town Music will take over the grassy infield alongside a Culinary Corridor featuring a selection of Deer Valley’s famed edible treats.

The venue is only accessible via a chairlift ride, which is included in the purchase price of the ticket. Tickets start at $40 for General Admission and go all the way up to $125 for the Imperial Package, which includes eight taster tokens, a commemorative beer mug and admission to a VIP BBQ tent. They can be purchased online here.  


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Dahlias: Summertime’s Garden Showstopper

Pretty dahlias fresh from the home garden.
Adobe Stock

When late-summer’s rays have left your gardens scorched and sparse, few flowers retain their brilliance like dahlias. The perennial is well adjusted to torrid temperatures and features fashionably late blooms that liven up waning landscapes. Their fanciful spiraling petals and vivid colors are summer bliss, both outdoors and inside. To make the most of the season’s star, Robert Upwall of Every Blooming Thing offers tips on cutting, preserving and arranging dahlias. 

Robert Upwall of Every Blooming Thing
Robert Upwall of Every Blooming Thing

Cutting

Like other garden flowers, the best time to cut dahlias is just before they fully bloom. “If the flower is fully bloomed out, they’re not going to last as long,” says Upwall. “But if cut at the right time, you can enjoy them for three to four days before they wilt.” When blooms are ready to be harvested, use a sharp knife and cut the stem at an angle. 

PRESERVING

With your blooms in hand, it’s time to act fast, as dahlias are extremely prone to wilting. To extend their showy color, Upwall suggests “putting the stems in really fresh hot water.” Water between 160 to 170 degrees is best, as the flower is sensitive to cold temperatures. If you aren’t ready to put the blooms on display, store them in the garage or basement out of direct sunlight and never in a fridge or freezer. 

ARRANGING 

Upwall loves pairing dahlias with other summertime favorites like sunflowers, but the versatile flower is also beautiful in a bouquet with ranunculus and garden roses. Or keep it simple by layering various colors of dahlias together. Once arranged, put your dahlias out just before your get-together or patio party to ensure the blooms stay vibrant and fresh. 

In Full Bloom

There are 42 species of dahlias, and these three are top picks for florists and garden lovers alike. 


This article was originally published in Utah Style & Design. While you’re here, subscribe and get six issues of Salt Lake magazine, your guide to the best of life in Utah.

Fitz and the Tantrums Bring ‘The Feels’ to Sandy Amphitheater

Fitz and the Tantrums
Fitz and the Tantrums (Photo by Luke Dickey)

In early 2020, Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick of Fitz and the Tantrums was looking forward to touring in earnest to promote the group’s latest album, All The Feels. But like virtually every music act, any plans for 2020 were turned upside down by the pandemic.

Now, Fitz and the Tantrums are returning to their album with a summer 2022 tour featuring Andy Grammer. Both Grammer and the band will perform for Utah audiences at Sandy Amphitheater on Aug. 18.

When his normal touring schedule came to a halt, Fitzpatrick was able to use his suddenly open schedule to do something that would not have happened otherwise—write and record his recently released solo album, Head Up High.

“I was given this amazing opportunity to just explore any idea I wanted,” he said. Freed from the expectations of what a Fitz and the Tantrums album would sound like, Fitzpatrick explored new facets of his voice and wrote lyrics about darker topics, including mental illness, death and aging. “When you’re a band for 12 years, you’ve been through every iteration of yourself, and it was honestly nice also to take a break from being a part of a collective creatively and just be able to make some decisions that were 100% mine to own and succeed or fail with.”

That doesn’t mean that Fitzpatrick has forgotten about All The Feels. In fact, now that Fitz and the Tantrums have returned to the touring routine, that 2019 album will remain a focus of the live shows, along with a new single, “Sway,” that is the group’s first new song in three years.

“I feel like we didn’t get a full record cycle,” he said. “So I’m excited to play the All The Feels album now that people have really had a chance to really live with it.”

As for Head Up High, songs from that new solo album may eventually figure into Fitz and the Tantrums’ shows, but that’s not a given, considering the band’s first priority is playing material from the group’s four studio albums.

“I might throw in one or two of those,” Fitzpatrick said of his solo songs. “It’s hard to know.”

As it is, Fitzpatrick had enough sweat, effort and time invested in All The Feels that it’s only natural he wants that album to get a proper tour cycle.

A big hurdle for the band was writing with a single Fitzpatrick felt could measure up with “HandClap,” the multi-chart hit from the band’s self-titled 2016 album. Like many artists before him that had felt pressure trying to follow up a hit song, Fitzpatrick readily admits he struggled with expectations created by “HandClap.” 

“It’s tough because as much as you say ‘I’m going to put that song out of my head,’ it’s always this quiet little monkey on your back,” Fitzpatrick explained. “And if you try and set that as the benchmark, you’re almost guaranteed failure because it’s just automatically sucking the oxygen out of the room.”

Fitzpatrick was finally able to eject that back-riding monkey when he thought back to how “HandClap” was written in the first place.

“What I had to finally do was come to the realization that we didn’t try and write ‘HandClap’ when we wrote it,” he said. “I just sort of tried to put my intellect to the side and just come from more of a visceral, primal place, which is how I achieved that [song].”

The song that finally put the All The Feels album on track was “123456.” It helped Fitzpatrick start seeing a lyrical thread around which he could build the entire album. And while a title like “123456” may suggest something as carefree and fun as a song called “HandClap,” it actually signaled that the new Fitz and the Tantrums album wouldn’t be a lightweight top 40 confection—at least on a lyrical level.

“‘123456’ is a very emotional song to me,” Fitzpatrick said. He described the song as a depiction of “that moment where you finally gain a little confidence back after a dark period of insecurity.” When that glimpse of assuredness returns, Fitzpatrick explained, “you just want to hold onto that as long as possible.”  

“I really started to see this theme of self-care, of self-love, of processing all of these emotions,” he said. To decide what songs to include on the album, Fitzpatrick asked himself, “Does this make me feel something?”

If Fitzpatrick explores some weighty topics on All The Feels, the band’s fourth album, he and his co-writers also continued Fitz and the Tantrums’ tradition of making fun, energetic music. That tone was established in 2008 in Los Angeles when Fitzpatrick formed the band with Noelle Scaggs (vocals/percussion), James King (saxophone/multi-instrumentalist), Jeremy Ruzumna (keyboards), John Wicks (drums) and Ethan Phillips (since replaced on bass by Joseph Karnes).

The group’s debut EP, 2009’s Songs for a Breakup, Vol. 1, and first full-length album, the 2010 release Pickin’ Up The Pieces, got the band labeled as retro-soul act for a lively sound that mixed elements of vintage soul and Motown with upbeat pop and rock.

That sound started to shift toward modern pop on the 2013 album, More Than Just a Dream, while retaining some classic soul influence. The revamped sound worked well and gave Fitz and the Tantrums a commercial breakthrough. The singles “Out of My League” and “The Walker” both topped the Billboard Alternative Songs chart.

Then came the self-titled album, its modern top-40-friendly sound and “HandClap,” which went to the top five on a trio of Billboard formats—Adult Top 40, Alternative Songs and Hot Rock Songs—and took the group’s career to a new level.

Now Fitzpatrick has added Head Up High to his catalog of music. And despite some heavy moments, the album isn’t hugely different from a Fitz and the Tantrums release, considering it’s largely made up with buoyant, dance-friendly songs filled with vocal hooks, bright instrumentation (which mixes synthetic tones with some organic instruments) and upbeat lyrics. The tone of the album was very much intentional.

Fitzpatrick said that during the pandemic, everybody was bored and stir crazy and stressed and [had] financial fear.” Responding to the national mood, he wrote some music that he calls depressing pandemic songs.I literally wrote a song called ‘Virus.’ I was like, ‘I don’t want to share this song. I’m living through this song. I don’t need any more depressing shit in my life.” Instead, Fitzpatrick gravitated toward songs that offered respite and a more optimistic perspective. I need hope and positivity and I want songs that make me want to dance around the room and at least give me a temporary sense of joy in this dread cycle we’re all in.”

  • Who: Fitz and the Tantrums with Andy Grammer
  • What: Upbeat soul-pop
  • Where: Sandy Amphitheater
  • When: Aug. 18, 2022
  • Tickets and info: sandyamp.com

Get the latest on arts and culture in Utah. And while you’re here, subscribe and get six issues of Salt Lake magazine, your guide to the best of life in Utah.

Utah Field Guide: Fry Sauce

French fries with cup of fry sauce
Adobe Stock

When we were 10 years old, Robbie Willis and I used to sneak over to Dairy Queen and split a large order of fries. We were odd kids, a fact evidenced by our choice to forego Dairy Queen’s more sensational fare, like chocolate-dipped ice cream, banana splits and sundaes. In the land of sweet, my childhood chum and I sought savory. 

These were good fries, too, from the pre-out-of-the-freezer era, freshly cut and perfectly salty. But it wasn’t just the fries that drove us to eschew the sweet-toothed tendencies of our peers. It was the sauce—the fry sauce—that completed the circle. This paper cup of smooth-whipped mayonnaise and ketchup was the perfect accent to each lace of deep-fried potato. Like chocolate and peanut butter, beer and pizza, cigarettes and coffee, fry sauce and fries are a truly powerful sensory yin and yang. And, if you grew up within a day’s drive of Temple Square, it’s always been on the menu.

Fry sauce’s invention is claimed by Don Carlos, the founder of Utah-based hamburger chain Arctic Circle. In 1950, Carlos’ signature burger was dressed with mayonnaise and ketchup. To save labor, he combined the two, calling the combo “pink sauce.” From this primeval goop, fry sauce emerged. The moment was as accidental and brilliant as Charles Goodyear’s discovery of vulcanized rubber. Carlos nonchalantly dipped a fry into his time-saving concoction, and the rest is history. 

Yes, it’s just ketchup and mayonnaise. But there are rules. Within the boundaries of this seemingly simple (and, yes, for some, disgusting) combination there are subtle variances. The first and simplest is your ketchup-to-mayonnaise ratio. For example, Crown Burger, an excellent purveyor of fry sauce, lands on the mayonnaise side of the argument, while Hires Big H, another quality sauce maker, leans toward the red side. Many fry sauce experts add other layers like vinegar and spices to the base, and some include pickle relish, both dill and sweet, in the mix. This latter addition walks the very fine line between fry sauce and Thousand Island dressing, however, and is discouraged. Miracle Whip? Miracle Whip is not an option. Oh yes, there are rules. 

Arctic Circle, which still carries its original recipe, became the host to spread the viral sauce around the Intermountain West. Even the mighty McDonald’s has served fry sauce on a limited regional basis, and 58 years after Carlos dipped a fry in his pink sauce, the fry sauce pin (along with its green Jell-O counterpart) would become the most coveted item of Olympic memorabilia for collectors during the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. 

The Dutch put mayonnaise on their fries (we would never do that, gross!) and the French have their aioli (French french fry sauce?). Here in Utah, we like our fries dressed with a simple mixture of ketchup and mayo, a combo so powerful two 10-year-olds once chose it over ice cream. Believe it.


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The Black Crowes Celebrate Their Debut Album at Red Butte Garden

The Black Crowes
The Black Crowes (Photo by Josh Cheuse)

When Chris and Rich Robinson made the November 2019 announcement that The Black Crowes were reuniting, it represented a reconciliation between the siblings after the band was blown up in 2015. The plan was to launch a lengthy reunion tour in 2020 commemorating the 30th anniversary of the group’s 1990 debut album Shake Your Money Maker.

Then COVID-19 struck and the touring industry, along with the rest of the world, ground to a halt. The 2020 tour was pushed back, and now The Black Crowes are doing more shows this summer celebrating that debut album. The Shake Your Money Maker tour will come to Red Butte Garden on Aug. 17 with openers The Texas Gentlemen.

For guitarist Rich Robinson, this unexpected respite turned out to be a mixed blessing, allowing him to get some perspective while quarantined at home with his family in Nashville.

“For 31 years, I’ve never not toured, played music with other people, been in the studio or done something to that effect for over a year,” he said. “That’s been interesting and a little tough because it becomes a part of you as a person just to have that feeling and connection. 

“But on the flip side, the positive of it was to be able to spend time unfettered with my children and be able to do that for 15 months without having to leave.” He added with a laugh, “Also being able to see them every day and experience all the joys of homeschooling while trying to figure out how to use Zoom.” 

But while it might seem simple for the brothers Robinson to pick up where they left off, reconnecting involved rebuilding a relationship that crumbled to the point where neither had been in touch with each other for several years. It was bad enough that Chris had never met Rich’s two youngest children and Rich had been just as disconnected from nephew Ryder and niece Cheyenne. 

And while both went on to other projects, Chris with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood (CRB) and As The Crow Flies, and Rich with The Magpie Salute, both were on the same page in terms of mending fences. For the younger Robinson, it was even more apparent given the direction Magpie Salute was headed.

“The financial and a lot of the creative burdens [in Magpie Salute] were on my shoulders and it was reaching a point where it was untenable,” he admitted. “I don’t feel like we were growing as fast as we would have liked.” As Rich wrote new songs, he thought about reconnecting with his brother. “I always wrote for Chris,” he said. “It had been seven years since I’d talked to him and I just missed my writing partner. We brought these two [perspectives] to the table when we wrote these songs together. I remember saying to a mutual friend, ‘I wrote these songs and I really miss Chris.’ It wasn’t a pitch or anything—just a passing comment. Our friend said that Chris said the same thing to him the other day. We were kind of on a similar page.”

With the pandemic-enforced downtime, the Robinsons were able to reconvene with George Drakoulias. Drakoulias discovered the band, produced the band’s first couple of albums and served as a mentor during the band’s formative years when the struggling musicians didn’t have a manager, lawyer or record deal. The trio dove into the vaults and emerged with a 30th anniversary, multi-format reissue of Shake Your Money Maker. It includes three unreleased studio tracks (including the first single “Charming Mess”), B-sides, demos and a 14-song unreleased live recording from a 1990 performance in Atlanta. While much of that time was a blur for Rich, he was pleasantly surprised at what was found on the cassette demos Drakoulias had saved and pulled out for this project.  

“I was 19 at the time, and I think we were so excited just to be able to make an album,” he recalled. “We never thought about the future or where it was going. We just knew we were making a record in a studio with gear.” After their debut’s whirlwind success, the band didn’t look back and quickly began writing and performing new music. “We never took stock in what [Shake Your Money Maker] meant to us and what a great record it is. I haven’t listened to that record in literally decades. Listening to the old stuff is just not my thing.” This reissue and anniversary tour gave Rich the rare opportunity to revisit a formative period in his life and career. “Everyone involved did a stellar job and I’m really happy with it.”

The Crowes have returned to the road this summer after releasing the EP 1972, with covers of songs released 50 years ago by The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, T. Rex, Rod Stewart, Little Feat and The Temptations. The band’s touring lineup is rounded out by guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, keyboardist Joel Robinow, Brandi Carlile drummer Brian Griffin and background singers Mackenzie Adams and Lesley Grant. 

The one former band member returning to the fold is Sven Pipien, who was the bassist from 1997 until the Black Crowes splintered in 2015. Founding member/drummer Steve Gorman, who penned 2019’s memoir Hard To Handle: The Life and Death of the Black Crowes, was not asked back. When asked about the reunion tour during a 2019 Variety interview, he said, “I don’t begrudge anybody that goes to see it, but it’s sad…it’s always gonna be sad.”  For Rich Robinson, who said he hadn’t read Gorman’s book, getting a fresh start with his older sibling is the focus.

“Steve was one of the incredibly negative and manipulative forces in the band that [we] really didn’t want to deal with,” he said. “In order to get back, we really had to do this very specific purge where we focus on the two of us and let this be something that will be positive…We want to focus and do it right for ourselves as human beings. For ourselves as brothers. For ourselves as writing and creative partners.”

  • Who: The Black Crowes with openers The Texas Gentlemen
  • What: Shake Your Money Maker, played in its entirety, along with other hit songs
  • Where: Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre
  • When: Aug. 17, 2022
  • Tickets and info: redbuttegarden.org

Get the latest on arts and culture in Utah. And while you’re here, subscribe and get six issues of Salt Lake magazine, your guide to the best of life in Utah.

‘Chewed Gum’ Doc Confronts Utah’s Culture Of Abuse, Assault

Chewed Gum documentary film screen shot, courtesy Alana Maiello

The documentary Chewed Gum, which explores the culture of silence around sexual and domestic violence in Utah communities, is in post-production after winning the DocPitch 2022 Audience Award and a $45,000 grant. Now, the filmmakers are hoping for more audience support to complete the film. 

In making the documentary, Alana Maiello—the director of Chewed Gum and a survivor of sexual violence herself—has discovered what the official logline calls “a buried epidemic of sexual violence in Utah.” The documentary, informed by the director’s personal experience, explores the ways survivors of sexual and domestic violence are silenced in religious communities in Utah. 

Survivors of sexual violence share their experiences in “Chewed Gum” documentary (Photo courtesy Alana Maiello)

Maiello was not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when she decided to attend Brigham Young University in Provo. She had dreamed of playing golf in college and BYU recruited her. “My first semester at BYU something happened that changed everything for me,” she says. Maiello was raped at a party. Because Maiello was drinking alcohol at the party, which is against BYU’s strict Honor Code, she decided to keep the rape a secret. 

“I had heard stories of other girls reporting their rapes, getting sent to the Honor Code Office and getting expelled,” she says. “I didn’t want to lose my place at BYU on the golf team, so I didn’t report.”

Suffering from PTSD, Maiello says she stopped sleeping and her participation in golf declined. So when LDS missionaries came to her door about a year later, she was ready to hear them out. “They promised me that if I was baptized I could be healed from anything. I decided to join the Mormon church,” says Maiello. She stayed in the LDS Church for more than seven years and served a mission in the Philippines. 

Eventually, Maiello realized she had never actually confronted the rape or the surrounding trauma. She decided to start over, leaving the church and leaving Utah. That might have been the end of the story had Maiello not come across an article in the New York Times exposing that women who had reported their rapes to BYU had been expelled by the Honor Code Office.

“When I saw this article, it was the first time that I saw evidence, in print, of how many more women there were besides me,” she says. “I knew at that moment that I needed to tell the story.” Maiello returned to Utah and started making Chewed Gum. Since then, she has met with many victims of sexual violence from BYU and the Church. “There is a hidden community of Mormon survivors,” she says. 

Chewed Gum is meant to expose a religious culture that “systematically threatens the safety and well-being of women,” says Maiello, and silences survivors of sexual violence. “I feel a deep responsibility to tell these survivors’ stories with accuracy without waging a war on the church or becoming reactive,” Maiello says.

‘A buried epidemic of sexual violence in Utah’

Rape is the only violent crime in Utah that is higher than the national average, according to data from the Utah Department of Health and Federal Bureau of Investigation. In Utah, nearly one in three women will experience some form of sexual violence during their lives. More than three-fourths (78.7%) of all sexual assault victims in Utah reported being sexually assaulted before they turned 18, and more than one-third (34.9%) of these survivors said they were assaulted before their 10th birthday. 

Among the risk factors that can cause a community to have higher rates of sexual violence, the Health Department included “adherence to traditional gender norms” and a lack of “gender equity.”

“We feel that it’s really important to understand the context of this problem. Women’s experiences in Utah in general—like lack of equal pay—it’s all related and contributing to these problems,” Maiello says. 

Those numbers could be higher still, as cases of sexual assault are underreported. In 2016, only an estimated 23% of rape or sexual assault were reported to police. Some sources suggest the reporting rate of child sexual abuse cases is even lower than that. 

‘A culture of silence’

Chewed Gum director Alana Maiello looks up at Salt Lake City temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, courtesy Alana Maiello
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint’s Salt Lake City temple, seen in “Chewed Gum” (Photo courtesy Alana Maiello)

“When we released the trailer, we didn’t know how much it was going to resonate with people,” Maiello says. While not every survivor’s story is the same, as more people reached out to her, Maiello says the patterns started to emerge. “There were so many other women,” she says. “And this culture of silence was so embedded. Many survivors reached out to me because they hadn’t been sure if what they experienced was rape until then. They had needed someone to articulate what they were experiencing. That was overwhelming.”

One of the most common things that Maiello heard from the survivors, many of them members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was that most of them had gone directly to the bishops of their LDS wards and didn’t report the assault to police. “You learn from the time you’re very young that your bishop is like the father to the ward—a person you deeply trust,” Maiello says. “And they [survivors] had experiences of their bishops asking them to repent.” 

“I think one of the things that differentiates this film from others is the extremity at which the survivors are experiencing secondary trauma, not just the initial trauma of the assault,” says producer Liz Yale Marsh. “They are further plunged into trauma because of the response from religious leaders. That’s the crux of this film.” 

Maiello says she learned from discussions with mental health researchers and survivors that, when a survivor tells someone about their assault and receives a negative reaction, it can take upwards of a decade before the survivor feels safe to discuss the assault again. “It can take that long to come to terms with being assaulted. That 10-12 year reporting gap fuels the high rate of domestic violence and assault,” says Maiello. 

Dr. Amber Choruby-Whiteley at the University of Utah published research about sexual assault in the LDS faith and is interviewed for the documentary. The research asked, “What are the gendered messages of femininity that Latter-day Saint childhood sexual abuse survivors have received, and how have these messages impacted their healing from sexual abuse?” Some of those messages that impacted study participants and encouraged victim-blaming included: “a woman’s value is connected to her virginity,” “women are responsible for men’s sexual desires,” “women of color are not believed to be victims,” “sexual sin is next to murder” and “if you feel guilty, you need to repent.”

Choruby-Whiteley notes that participants’ interactions with church leaders varied in levels of support and suggests bishops and other church leaders should receive training to adequately respond to trauma survivors in their congregation. “These individuals, while often well-intentioned, are left to rely on their own personal perspectives on trauma and are likely informed by larger societal systems of victim-blaming and rape myths,” she says.

“If the leaders of the LDS Church could hear and listen to these stories, I would hope it would lead them to create comprehensive training for bishops,” Maiello says. “Without education on sexual violence and trauma, how can they advise a woman who is experiencing that?”

“Consent education is a really big piece of this,” Marsh says. “With the lack of anything other than abstinence-only messaging, survivors don’t have the language to understand they have been assaulted.”

Advocates for survivors of child sexual abuse have pointed to an LDS Church policy of bishops reporting cases of abuse to a “help line” rather than to police as perpetuating a culture of silence and complicity toward abuse, which the Associated Press covered extensively in a recent bombshell report, and suggest the policy needs to be reevaluated and revised. 

‘Chewed gum’ 

Chewed Gum documentary screen shot
Young women in church dress, from “Chewed Gum” documentary (Photo courtesy Alana Maiello)

For some, the phrase “chewed gum” evokes the story told by Elizabeth Smart at a panel at John Hopkins University in 2013. Smart, who was abducted from her Salt Lake City home in 2002 and held captive for nine months, said one of the factors that deterred her from escaping was that she felt worthless after being raped, in part due to the lessons she had received about sexual purity. “I had a teacher who was talking about abstinence,” Smart told the panel. “And she said, ‘Imagine you’re a stick of gum. When you engage in sex, that’s like getting chewed. And if you do that lots of times, you’re going to become an old piece of gum, and who is going to want you after that?’ Well, that’s terrible. No one should ever say that. But for me, I thought, ‘I’m that chewed-up piece of gum.’ Nobody re-chews a piece of gum. You throw it away. And that’s how easy it is to feel you no longer have worth. Your life no longer has value.” 

For others, the “chewed gum” metaphor was already familiar from  their childhood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “In many of the lessons given to young men and young women, it’s used to explain the law of chastity [the church’s doctrine on sexual purity],” says Maiello. “Hundreds of survivors have reached out saying they had received that lesson. They had absorbed it into their identity, so when they were assaulted, they asked themselves, ‘Am I chewed gum? Is this my fault?’” 

Participants in Dr. Amber Choruby-Whiteley’s study shared similar object lessons they received in church, such as “a licked cupcake” or “plucked rose.” Choruby-Whiteley identifies such lessons as another area the LDS Church could improve. “The church utilizes lesson plan manuals…Current messages within these manuals about virginity and the law of chastity can create a culture of victim-blaming.” Instead, the study suggests that the church edit lesson manuals “to contain explicit instructions to teachers to permanently discontinue object lessons regarding virginity,” and that any lessons on chastity should include messaging about “what abuse is, how abuse is never the survivor’s fault, and how there is no need to repent for being a victim of abuse.”

Choruby-Whiteley also acknowledges that the LDS Church has put forth efforts to become more “trauma-informed,” including launching a website for survivors of abuse and their family, friends and church leaders. 

 The ‘Chewed Gum’ documentary

Chewed Gum is currently in post-production, and Marsh says producers are “still actively fundraising” and pursuing grants to complete the film. “DocPitch helped us to move the film forward, but a lot of our ability to finish the film depends on fundraising, too.”  

They hope to be able to start submitting Chewed Gum to premiere at film festivals at the end of 2023.

“We want the doc to be a resource,” Maiello says. “To say, ‘We don’t want this to continue. There can be a reformation. A better way.’ If I could be so bold, the church needs a reformation in the way it treats and supports women.”

“We’re in a moment where, nationally, we’re having conversations about conservative patriarchal religions,” Marsh says. “Utah is a microcosm of what happens to women in a conservative religious patriarchy. It’s important, now more than ever, for these stories to be heard.”

To learn more about the Chewed Gum documentary and donate to the film’s fundraising efforts, visit chewedgumdocumentary.com


If you need help, call Utah’s free 24-hour Sexual Violence Helpline at 1-888-421-1100.


For more of Salt Lake magazine’s coverage on local documentary films, check out our film section or subscribe to receive the latest print issue of the magazine delivered to your home.  

Make Spirited Floats at Home

Float Drinks (Photo by Adam Finkle)
Float Drinks (Photo by Adam Finkle)

No one’s knocking root beer floats, but you’ve probably been away from summer camp long enough to crave a more grown-up take on the classic concoction. This season, let the kids chase the ice cream truck while you serve easy-to-make spiked floats as the perfect ending to your summertime get-togethers.

LIMONCELLO DREAM

Pour one ounce of limoncello and 1/2 ounce of Grand Marnier into a tall glass. Fill the glass with champagne or soda and top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Garnish with a lemon slice.

Limoncello Dream, with limoncello, Grand Marnier, champagne, ice cream and lemon
Limoncello Dream (Photo by Adam Finkle)

MELBA FLOAT

Fill a glass with cold semi-sweet Riesling and add a scoop of raspberry sorbet. Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Melba Float with Riesling, raspberry sorbet and mint
Melba Float (Photo by Adam Finkle)

CARAMEL STOUT

Fill a mug 3/4 full with stout and plop in a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s Triple Caramel Chunk ice cream.

Caramel Stout (Photo by Adam Finkle)

For more recipes visit here.

Music Legends Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples Come to Red Butte Garden

Mavis Staples (Photo by Myriam Santos/Courtesy Red Butte Garden)

On Aug. 13, 2022 two legends of American music grace the Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre stage. 

Bonnie Raitt is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee with a dozen Grammy Awards on her shelf. Raitt’s musical journey began in the late 1960s while attending Harvard/Radcliffe College. Active in the social justice movement and Boston’s folk and blues music scene, Raitt eventually left school to dedicate herself full-time to the blues. She opened for greats like Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker and Sippie Wallace using the opportunity to develop her craft under their tutelage. A young, redheaded white woman shredding blues guitar licks seemed like a novelty at first, but Raitt soon gained a reputation as a solid blues and slide guitarist with a soulful voice. 

She recorded her debut album in 1971 and then hit the road to build her fan base. For the next two decades she lived the life of a road warrior recording eight more albums along the way. It wouldn’t be until 1989 when she signed with Capitol Records and went into the studio with producer Don Was to record Nick of Time that she found commercial success. The album shot to number one on the Billboard charts and earned her three Grammy Awards in 1990. Her follow-up album Luck of the Draw (1991) brought even greater success with two hit singles “Something to Talk About” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me” earning three more Grammys. After nearly 20 years on the road, Raitt had finally reached popular and critical acclaim. In 2000, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2022 received a lifetime achievement award from the Grammys.

Bonnie Raitt
Bonnie Raitt (Photo by Ken Friedman/Courtesy Red Butte Garden)

More than 50 years after the release of her first album, a cover of blues standards, she released her self-produced album Just Like That, a genre-fluid gem providing great new songs like “Livin’ for the Ones,” a heartfelt homage to those who didn’t survive the pandemic. At 72, there’s no slow lane for this soulful blues legend.

Mavis Staples is in her eighth decade as a musical artist. She started her professional career in 1952 as a member of her family’s gospel/folk band The Staple Singers. The band is best known for the gospel/folk hit “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” (1966) and the Stax Records soul and funk hits “Respect Yourself” (1971) and “I’ll Take You There” (1972). She sang at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961 and marched alongside Dr. King for civil rights and social justice. She’s won multiple Grammys and is a two-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—first in 1999 as a member of the Staple Singers and again in 2019 as a solo artist. In 2016 she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and in 2018 the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

At 83, Staples just released Carry Me Home, a 12-track live album from a 2011 Midnight Ramble session she recorded with Levon Helm at his Woodstock venue just before his death from cancer. “This is My Country” is a particularly poignant track considering Staples’ life-long activism for social justice. To hear Helm’s skillful drumming nearly a dozen years after his death is haunting yet gratifying.

Catching these two titans of American music in such an intimate and beautiful setting is this summer’s “must-see” show. 

  • Who: Bonnie Raitt with very special guest Mavis Staples
  • What: Bonnie Raitt: Just Like That Tour
  • Where: Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre
  • When: Aug. 13, 2022
  • Tickets and info: redbuttegarden.org

Get the latest on arts and culture in Utah. And while you’re here, subscribe and get six issues of Salt Lake magazine, your guide to the best of life in Utah.

Thomas Rhett Brings Joyful Country to USANA Amphitheatre

Thomas Rhett, who performs at USANA Amphitheatre on Aug. 11
Thomas Rhett, who performs at USANA Amphitheatre on Aug. 11 (Photo by John Shearer)

Last year, Thomas Rhett threw a bit of a stylistic curveball to fans with his album Country Again: Side A, which moved away from the pop elements and modern production that had been a big part of recent albums like Center Point Road (2019) and Life Changes (2017), and featured a more organic, more relaxed and more country sound.

If not as big of a blockbuster hit as Rhett’s two preceding albums, Country Again: Side A got good reviews and produced two No. 1 singles, “What’s Your Country Song” and “Country Again.” But when Rhett tested songs from the album during an early 2021 run of shows at the famous club Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth, Texas, he felt the songs didn’t translate to the live stage the way he hoped.

Rhett rejiggered his live set and set off on a different songwriting path that has now generated his recently released follow-up album, Where We Started. Now, Rhett is sharing these new songs with fans in the Bring the Bar to You tour, which comes to USANA Amphitheatre on Aug. 11 with special guests Parker McCollum and Conner Smith.

“I’m beyond proud of Country Again: Side A. I think I’ll look back when I’m 50 or 60 years old and think that was my favorite record that I ever made,” Rhett said in a June interview. “But I also have to look back at that record and realize that every one of those songs that I wrote, I wrote in solitude. I was literally in my basement writing those songs on Zoom, and I’m dealing with the heaviness and the weight that the rest of the world was dealing with. By the time we got on the road, I started playing a lot of these kind of heavier songs and realized man, maybe there’s just too much heaviness that’s happened to continue to hear heavier, deeper songs.”

As Rhett began writing new material during a tour last summer, he had some instructions for his co-writers. 

“I brought songwriters out with me every single weekend on the road and I really just encouraged the writers to watch the show every night and figure out where there were spots in our show that needed some different energy,” Rhett said. After noticing these gaps, Rhett and his collaborators focused on writing music that would invigorate his live performances.

By fall 2021, Rhett had written the songs for Where We Started, and when he went into the studio to record, he had reached a very different place than when he worked on for Country Again: Side A.

“We just wanted to go in there with joy,” he said. “I wanted the recording process this time to not be so weighty and heavy and just have a blast doing it.”

Working with producers Dann Huff and Jesse Frasure, Rhett said the recording went pretty smoothly. He credited the production work of Frasure, who has been one of Rhett’s longtime songwriting partners, with bringing the songs to life in the studio, and together they brought some new elements to his sound on Where We Started. Chief among those are the strings that tastefully enrich several songs, including the easy-grooving “Slow Down Summer,” a recent No. 1 single, the perky “Simple As A Song,” and the title track, a silky ballad that pairs Rhett with pop star Katy Perry on vocals. Noting that string arrangements were common in country music during the 1950s, Rhett liked the dimension the strings brought to the album.

“I’m such a big fan of the ‘50s, and it felt like it was a different kind of a sound than I’ve ever done,” Rhett said. Even with the instrumental and production twists, Where We Started still feels like a country record—although Rhett didn’t forget his fans who like the poppier side of his music.

“I wanted to give the people who fell in love with Life Changes and Center Point Road a few songs that reminded them of that,” Rhett said. “But I also wanted to give a lot of songs to people who really loved Country Again: Side A.” The sound balances country tradition with uptempo crowd-pleasers, and Rhett said that the record still sounds cohesive even if the individual songs are distinct. “As a whole, it’s one of the most well-rounded albums that we’ve gotten to make.”

While the songwriting on Where We Started is more lighthearted than Country Again: Side A, a trio of songs share that previous album’s deeper—and darker—lyrics. The ballads “The Hill” and “Angels” address the challenges that come with marriage and long-term relationships, something Rhett knows about as a father of four young daughters who has been married to his wife, Lauren, since 2012.

“I think people always expect happy-go-lucky love songs from me, but these were two songs that really stuck out to me because I think they went deeper into what a marriage really is,” Rhett said. “After the honeymoon phase is no longer there, marriage really is a choice. My wife and I have chosen to stick with each other and love each other through our disagreements and our arguments, and I think that’s what makes a marriage so strong. I wanted to say I love you in a different way on this album. And those two songs are the ones that did that for me.”

Another song, “Death Row,” was written after Rhett visited a prison in Tennessee housing inmates awaiting execution. Joined on the tune by Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line and Russell Dickerson, Rhett sings of finding humanity in the prisoners despite the crimes for which they were convicted.

“That song literally was birthed out of a real experience,” Rhett said. “I never in a million years thought I would write a song with that sort of darkness in it, but also with that kind of redemption in a way.”

Rhett’s willingness to test musical boundaries without losing his country roots or pop-friendly accessibility has made him one of country’s top stars and most consistent hitmakers. The son of country star and songwriter Rhett Akins, Rhett’s debut album, 2013’s It Goes Like This, was a breakout success. It landed three No. 1 singles on Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart, including the album’s title track, which was co-written by his father.

Rhett has only seen his momentum grow over the course of five subsequent albums and his cache of No. 1 singles now numbers 19. Those hits will still be a cornerstone of his live shows this summer.

“This is for sure the longest show we’ve ever played,” Rhett said. He grew the setlist to accommodate his biggest hits, songs from Where We Started and album cuts that Rhett said are still, for some reason, very popular at our shows. “I think we have a 25-, 26-song set list this year, which I’m really excited about. There’s going to be something for everybody.” he said.

“Our motto this year is just to bring smiles to peoples’ faces,” Rhett said. “So however we can achieve that, that is our goal.”

  • Who: Thomas Rhett with Parker McCollum and Conner Smith
  • What: Pop-leaning country
  • Where: USANA Amphitheatre
  • When: Aug. 11
  • Tickets and info: saltlakeamphitheater.com

Get the latest on arts and culture in Utah. And while you’re here, subscribe and get six issues of Salt Lake magazine, your guide to the best of life in Utah.

The Best Swimming Spots in Utah

Best Swimming Spots in Utah
Calf Creek Falls, Photo Credit UOT Images

While summer in Utah is generally a wonderful time of sunshine, mountain air and endless trails, the dog days can tend to get relentlessly hot, dry and dusty. In addition to creating volatile wildfire conditions, the weather can leave your whole body feeling a bit parched and in need of a respite. Fortunately, the Beehive State is full literal and figurative oases in the desert, with a host of alpine lakes, mountain reservoirs and waterfall-fed swimming holes. Here’s our list of the best swimming spots in Utah.  Some of these require a decent hike to get to, while others are just feet from the car, but they’re all perfect for staying cool on a summer day.

Swimming Near SLC

Salt Lake City has swelled into a major urban population center, but there are all types of unique swimming opportunities nearby.

Pineview Reservoir
Pineview Reservoir, Photo Credit: UOT Images

Mona Rope Swings: Just a 30-minute drive south of Provo, the Mona rope swings bring some excitement to the Burraston ponds. There are at least five rope swings and multiple platforms of varying sizes in the trees from which to plunge into the deep, refreshing pools of water. The rope swings have a small parking lot and are easy to find just by typing the name into Google Maps.

Pineview Reservoir: While not exactly a secret, Pineview Reservoir is one of the best spots to take a dip near SLC and Ogden. The reservoir is ringed by mountains, which provide not only incredible views, but also surprisingly good protection from the wine. Pineview Beach on the reservoir’s west end is flat and sandy and feels distinctly more like a natural lake than many of the dammed bodies of water in Utah.

East Canyon Reservoir: East Canyon is a famous, historical pioneer route for groups from Brigham Young’s Mormon pioneers to the ill-fated Donner Party. You can retrace their steps in a significantly less arduous manner by visiting East Canyon State Park for a dip in the reservoir. The snowmelt-fed water is surrounded by mountains and seems miles further from civilization than the short 25-minute drive would indicate.

Swimming in the Uinta Mountains

The Uinta Mountains are home to more than 1,000 pristine natural alpine lakes. Unlike those in the Cottonwood Canyons, they aren’t part of the watershed so they’re perfect for swimming. Access them all just east of Kamas and Park City via the Mirror Lake Highway (S.R. 150).

Mirror Lake, Photo Credit: UOT Images

Ruth Lake: Ruth Lake is only about a mile from the trailhead, which is 35 miles up S.R. 150 from Kamas. Enjoy the mellow hike through open meadows with views of the surrounding mountains like Hayden Peak before rewarding yourself with a dip.

Mirror Lake: The namesake of the famous road through the Uintas, Mirror Lake is easily accessible as it’s right off the road. Because of that proximity, it can get a little crowded from time to time, but the near perfect reflection of the surrounding mountains alone makes it worth the visit. A well-maintained path surrounds the entire lake, so you can go for a nice scenic walk while finding the perfect spot to hop in. Mirror Lake is 32 miles up S.R. 150.

Wall Lake: Start from the Crystal Lake Trailhead (26 miles up S.R. 150), and head up the Notch Mountain Trail for about a mile to reach Wall Lake. Wall Lake is flanked by cliffs of varying sizes you can jump off depending on how daring you’re feeling. The Crystal Lake Trailhead gets a little crowded, but people dissipate quickly as you head up the trail and reach Wall Lake.

Swimming in the Utah Desert

These are the literal oases we were talking about. Utah’s famous desert landscapes are dotted with refreshing, picturesque swimming holes.

Desert Waterfall, Photo Credit UOT Images

Touquerville Falls: Touquerville Falls is a wonderful spot to visit after spending a day at nearby Zion National Park. The road out there is a rough, 12-mile OHV trail. It’s passable with most relatively-capable 4×4 vehicles, but it’s not one to be attempted in your ’88 Civic or rusted out Ranger. The road can also be hiked by the hearty. Either way, once you reach the several levels of cascading waterfalls you know the effort was worth it.

Calf Creek Falls: Located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Calf Creek Falls is named for the surrounding steep sandstone walls which served as a natural pen for calves. It’s about a three-mile hike to reach Lower Calf Creek Falls with its stunning 130-foot waterfall and a deep swimming pool. Upper Calf Creek Falls takes more effort to reach but has a 90-foot waterfall of its own and far fewer visitors. The historic rock art on the stone walls help the miles pass quickly.

Mill Creek Waterfall: Ever the popular tourist destination, Moab is teeming with people looking to cool off after a long day in the sun mountain biking or hiking through Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. The Mill Creek Waterfall Trail is less than a mile from downtown Moab. The full trail is a 7.5 mile out and back, but if you just want to make it to the waterfall for a swim it’s shy of two miles total.

This article was originally published on saltlakemagazine.com on Aug. 7, 2020. 

For more ways to cool off this summer see our list of Best Water Attractions to Stay Cool this summer

13 Pool Day Essentials

Photo by Joshua Caldwell

When the torrid summer heat reaches 100 degrees, there’s no place we’d rather be than poolside. Between swanky pool deck seating and creative floating lights, the following pool day essentials are an absolute must this summer. Ready to dive in?

Positano Chaise, Alice Lane Home

Enjoy your backyard lagoon from the comfort of a chic, minimalist lounger. The textured metal frame and soft cream cushion are effortlessly chic.

Positano Chaise, $5,640, Alice Lane Home, SLC

Business & Pleasure Co. Beach Blanket, Anthropologie

What says “endless summer” better than striped motifs and bohemian fringe? This totable blanket is made with eco-friendly material and built-in leather straps to make last-minute pool days a breeze.

Business & Pleasure Co. Beach Blanket, $119, Anthropologie

Blue Pheasant Wine Caddy, Anthropologie

Weekend days in the pool call for a few bottles of bubbly. This wicker wine caddy makes a welcome addition to your pool deck furniture, and conveniently organizes your favorite beverages.

Blue Pheasant Wine Caddy, $72, Anthropologie

In Pool Chaise Lounger, Aqua Outdoors

This sleek pool lounger brings sunbathing to the next level. The ergonomic design offers maximum comfort while delivering a luxurious flair to your poolside oasis.

In Pool Chaise Lounger, $549, Aqua Outdoors

2-in-1 Bean Bag Toss, Crate & Barrel

Corn hole is a perennial favorite at pool days and backyard gatherings. Flip over the stylish lawn game to play another friendly game of tic-tac-toe.

2-in-1 Bean Bag Toss, $159, Crate & Barrel

Disco Dome, Funboy

This jungle-themed disco float is exactly what you need to get the pool party going. The interior seats hold up to four and feature cup holders, sun shades and tether ropes.

Disco Dome, $299, Funboy

Free and Easy Beach Towel, The Stockist

Take this as your sign to refresh time-worn pool towels. Featuring a retro design and a velour finish, this towel looks good draped over any chair or pool deck.

Free and Easy Beach Towel, $72, The Stockist, SLC

Butterfly Pool Float, Funboy

A 9 ft. wide rainbow butterfly float—what more could an aspiring influencer want?

Butterfly Pool Float, $99, Funboy

Beach Bucket, Hip & Humble

Stash wet swimsuits and pool day essentials in this colorful tote. Poly woven fabric allows moisture to escape and an interior zipper safely stores your phone, wallet and keys.

Beach Bucket, $44.95, Hip & Humble, SLC

LED Floating Pool Light, Lightology

Step up your ambient lighting with an LED lamp that looks just as good placed on a table as it does floating in your pool. The cordless glowing orb uses Bluetooth to control brightness, color and even wake-up alarms.

LED Floating Pool Light, $145, Lightology

Poolside Seat, Front Gate

For when you just want to dip your toes in without braving the rough pool deck.

Poolside Seat, $65, Front Gate

Steel Tabletop BBQ, West Elm

Whether you’re visiting a neighbor’s pool or just don’t feel like breaking out the Traeger, this tabletop barbeque is a convenient cooking tool. The modest product comes with its own personal strap, so you can dine in style wherever life takes you.

Steel Tabletop BBQ, $250, West Elm

Business & Pleasure Co. Umbrella, West Elm

Add a splash of vintage charm to your pool deck with this colorful umbrella.

Business & Pleasure Co. Umbrella, $299, West Elm


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Banned Books Surge, Librarians Defend The Right To Read

Gender Queer: a Memoir by Maia Kobabe, the most challenged and banned book in America.

Tucked between the big-ticket pop culture events featuring spectacles of dragons and superheroes on the schedule of San Diego Comic-Con, a healthy number of panels are dedicated to discussion on banned books. Enough books have been removed from library shelves for it to earn attention at one of the largest pop culture conventions in the country. Why discuss banned books at Comic-Con? In Utah, and across the country, the list of the most commonly challenged and banned literature is topped by comic books, including graphic novels pulled from the shelves of Alpine School District libraries this week. 

The surge in book challenges

Alpine School District decided to remove 52 books by 41 authors in response to a new state law (H.B. 374) targeting “sensitive material” that “do not have literary merit” in schools. 

In response to Alpine School District’s decision, Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education programs at PEN America, says, “Sweeping removals of books are not supposed to be a routine thing in school libraries. Students have a right to learn about the variety of human experiences and perspectives that these books provide. Serious questions remain about how this decision was arrived at and whether state statutes were properly applied.”

The removal is part of a wider trend of escalating book challenges across the country. The American Library Association (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to library, school and university materials and services in 2021 (compare that to just 156 challenges in 2020), resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals. It’s the highest number of attempted book bans since the ALA began tracking challenges 20 years ago. 

“Book challenges aren’t new, but they can be organized so much more now with social media,” says Moni Barrette. Barrette is a librarian, president of the ALA’s Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table and one of the SDCC panelists concerned about the trend. 

Such social media efforts, organized by a conservative group called Utah Parents United, pushed for banning the books in Alpine and other school districts. The group celebrated the district’s decision to remove them, calling it a “big win.” Other groups, however, see it as a blow to First Amendment rights. 

“No one should get to decide what someone else reads. I don’t care if it’s children or adults. No one should get to have that power,” says librarian Jack Phoenix, author of Maximizing the Impact of Comics in Your Library: Graphic Novels, Manga, and More

In a joint statement addressing the surge in book challenges in 2021, UEA (Utah Education Association) UELMA (Utah Educational Library Media Association), ULA (Utah Library Association) and ULMS (Utah Library Media Supervisors) shared a similar sentiment, saying, “A parent has the right to determine what is best for their child, but they do not have the right to determine what is best for any other child.” The groups reiterated their support for the First Amendment’s provision of free speech, which also includes the freedom to read and listen to other people’s perspectives, “We are committed to challenging censorship in any form as protected by these rights.”

Is this censorship?

Before H.B. 374—and similar bills in other states—passed, librarians were already curating age-appropriate material for their library’s collections (that’s part of the job), and a number of library and literary organizations had guidelines in place for how to handle challenged books. However, PEN America found that, of the bans they tracked between July 2021 and March 2022, 98% departed from best practice guidelines outlined by the National Coalition Against Censorship and the ALA. PEN America also reported that 41% of the individual bans were tied to directives from state officials or elected lawmakers to investigate or remove books in schools.

H.B. 374 instructs local education agencies (LEAs) to develop and implement policy to keep “sensitive material” that is “harmful to minors” or “pornographic or indecent” out of school libraries. This raises some key questions. When is something considered pornographic? Or harmful? Utah law defines something as pornographic when it “appeals to prurient interest in sex,” is “patently offensive in the description or depiction of nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sadomasochistic abuse, or excretion” and “taken as a whole it does not have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.” And it’s harmful to minors when, in addition to the above, it is “patently offensive…as a whole with respect to what is suitable material for minors.”

Even under the new state law, the Utah Attorney General’s Office acknowledged that First Amendment rights extend to students. In the second of two memos attempting to clarify guidance on removing books from schools under H.B. 374, the AG foresees possible conflicts with federal law and federal precedent, which could result in lawsuits. In other words, LEAs should tread carefully while removing library books if they don’t want to find themselves in court.

Ultimately, books that might meet the state’s definition of “sensitive material” also have to be deemed to be, as a whole, without any literary value to stand up to legal scrutiny. Therein, as they say, lies the rub. Who determines if something has value? There are some (including a member of the Utah State School Board) who say any depiction of nudity or sexuality is without “serious value for minors.” Groups like Utah Parents United seem to espouse this view as well, arguing that the books banned by Alpine School District and other Utah districts contain content that’s harmful for children. 

Librarians and other advocates for free speech, however, say the intentions of these groups are far more insidious than protecting students. 

The most banned books

The 52 books removed by Alpine School District (with an additional 32 titles pending further review) includes books that were also recently challenged or taken off library shelves in Canyons, Davis, Murray and Washington school districts. The surge in challenges appear to be targeted at a very particular subject matter. 

“It’s not actually about the sexual content,” says Phoenix. “Even if the book doesn’t have any sexual content, they claim that there is so they can pick on someone who is different. They’re trying to erase people who are different from them…it’s villainous.” 

PEN America reports that, of the books removed by Alpine, 21 (42%) feature LGBTQ+ characters and/or themes. Nationally, the trend is similar. According to PEN America, 33% of challenged books explicitly address LGBTQ+ themes, or have prominent characters who are LGBTQ+, 41% contain prominent characters of color and 22% directly address issues of race and racism. 

This is an escalation of an already existing tactic. In November 2012, well before H.B. 374 passed, the ACLU of Utah sued the Davis School District after administrators removed In Our Mothers’ House, a children’s book about a family with same-sex parents, from an elementary school library, on the grounds that it “promoted homosexuality.” Three months later, the district settled and the book was back on shelves. 

Advocates point out, there’s a history of conservative groups sexualizing any work related to queer identities, deeming it inappropriate for younger people to consume. “That’s my lived experience. It’s one of the indignities that a lot of queer people suffer,” explains Phoenix. “Everything about us gets linked to sexuality and sexualization. If kids—and not just kids, people—can understand straight love and straight couples, they can understand gay love and gay couples.”

Maia Kobabe’s graphic novel Gender Queer: A Memoir was challenged in both Alpine and Canyons districts, and in 2021, it was the most banned book in the entire country. It details the author’s journey to identify as nonbinary and asexual and learning how to navigate eir identity with family and society. While there are some who seem to believe the book is “without value,” that’s hardly the consensus. Gender Queer won critical acclaim and several literary awards. 

However, according to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, comics are “uniquely vulnerable” to being challenged because a single page or panel is easily taken out of context. This could also be the case with the graphic novel This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, which has been challenged in Washington, Davis and Alpine school districts but was the 2015 Caldecott Honor Book.

“A lot of these books have received critical acclaim,” says Phoenix. “That’s why they get this negative attention…It means these [novels] have been read by a lot of people and there has been a lot of value found in them by countless people across the country.” 

For librarians like Phoenix and Barrette, it’s not just about the literary value, but “Every good library should have something that offends everyone,” says Phoenix.

“The purpose of information is to make you think. So, if you take away all of the information that bothers everybody, now you don’t have to think anymore,” says Barrette. “You’re supposed to be bothered by things so it sparks a little critical thinking inside of you.” 

Librarians and advocates ask everyone to keep an open mind. “A grain of sand that irritates an oyster is what causes a pearl to grow,” says Barrette. “If something nags at you, it’s probably for a reason. It’s something that you should examine and that’s exciting. That’s good for you.” 

Even as more school districts work to implement policy in accordance with laws like H.B. 374 and public libraries deal with the surge in book challenges, it’s librarians who are on the frontline, defending the right to read. “It wasn’t our passion to defend books in the first place,” says Barrette. “It was more that they brought the fight to our doorstep, and we’re not going to back down. Like how doctors ‘do no harm,’ we defend the right to read. That’s just the way it is. We’re here to provide access. Period. And no one should be taking that away.” 


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Review: Son Volt With Jack Broadbent at The Commonwealth Room

Son Volt
Son Volt (Photo courtesy The Commonwealth Room)

Playing a concert originally scheduled for late winter of 2022 (but postponed due to COVID infections in the band), Son Volt finally made it to Salt Lake with a show at The Commonwealth Room on Tuesday, Aug. 2. In support was Jack Broadbent, a sub for the originally-slotted opener, Old Salt Union’s Jesse Farrar.

It’s Hip to Have a Hip Flask

It was a minute, maybe two, after 8 p.m. when opener Jack Broadbent arrived onstage in an all-black outfit, sitting down on his amp for the duration of his set. With a good portion of the audience assembled on the smoking patio, he ripped through a few chords, paused, thanked the small crowd and noted that he had merchandise for sale in the lobby. That bit of dry humor was present throughout his opening set, which involved a lot of chit-chat with the railbirds assembled just in front of him. An amiable guy, Broadbent was able to blend his good sense of humor alongside a uniquely modern yet traditionally respectful take on the blues. 

A native of Lincolnshire, England, Broadbent has six albums to his credit, including his latest Ride. Adding classic, time-tested blues cuts to his original material, Broadbent’s voice and guitar style more than satisfied those longing for a straight-ahead blues set, though he also bent into singer-songwriter territory on a couple songs. This created a diverse, compelling 40-minute appearance during his first show of a week’s worth of gigs with Son Volt. 

The charming and self-assured Broadbent had the room listening at pin-drop level, fully enchanting the early birds before heading out to the lobby for those promised merch sales. Which, of course, included a personalized hip flask, fully lining-up with his self-described “rhythm-and-booze” style. Those who arrived late surely missed out, though it’s assumed here that the talented Broadbent won’t be a stranger to touring (and winning over) the U.S. 

Giving Us a Break

As a quick compliment, I’ll note that Son Volt took the stage and played their first notes at the promised 9 p.m. start time. Too many local shows of late have seen interstitial breaks of 30 minutes, 45 minutes or even longer. With little equipment to change over, Son Volt were ready, able and willing to allow their fans a moment to stretch their legs before launching into their own 100 minutes of the evening’s entertainment. Appreciate it! 

And Speaking of Stretching Legs

Let’s note up top that Son Volt’s not a band given over to showiness or theatricality. Founder, songwriter and frontman Jay Farrar said maybe 200 words to the audience over the course of this show (including a shout-out to Red Iguana and their many moles) with half of those spoken during a brief moment of technical adjustments for drummer Mark Patterson. Reliant on the strength of the songs (which date back to the mid-‘90s) rather than straight-up, play-to-the-crowd showmanship, the group’s content to remain hyper-focused and precise in their instrumentation and stage approach. At one point during the group’s three-song encore, guitarist John Horton wandered a couple of feet from his pedal board, which was as wild and spontaneous as things got on this evening. 

This isn’t to say that the band’s not compelling in their own right.

The group—which also includes longtime Farrar collaborators Andrew DuPlantis on bass guitar and Mark Spencer on keyboards, guitar and steel guitar—has an obvious chemistry. Pulling songs from their 10-album catalog, including 2021’s Electro Melodier, the band mixed-and-matched songs from different eras, to the obvious delight of longtime fans, including known Son Volt winners such as “The 99,” “Drown” and the night’s closer “Chickamauga,” a song dating back to Farrar’s pre-Son Volt band, Uncle Tupelo. Also heard during the encore was “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which was infused with enough originality to make the track feel vital. (To be fair, those of who grew up on the popular Guns N’ Roses version of the track might have different feelings about this song than contemporaries from Dylan’s day-and-age; forgive this Gen X musing!) 

Son Volt is a hard-working band of veterans playing a no-frills style of rock/Americana that’ll always have a place on the touring circuit (for as long as Farrar finds interest in sharing his songs in the live setting.)  

A few hundred Utahns were treated to a fine night of rock ’n’ roll on Tuesday, via a mid-career band playing stellar songs wed to a high, high level of professional musicianship. 

A Quick Personal Aside

Son Volt’s home base is St. Louis, where I lived until moving to Utah this year. Family needs have me moving back there shortly, so Son Volt was my last touring show to take in as a full-time resident here. Almost-impossibly, due to Son Volt playing dozens of shows in/around St. Louis for the past 28 years, I’d never seen the group live. As Farrar’s songs can direct your emotions into a degree of melancholy, this gig was special, a tad bittersweet, but also hopeful. Thanks be to Jay Farrar & Co. for keeping this rock ’n’ roll unit on the road.

3 Ways to Serve Caprese

Caprese
Adobe Stock

Whether picked from your garden or a farmers market bin, Utah’s vine-ripened tomatoes are now at their peak. And while there are countless ways to celebrate them this season, for us, caprese tops the list. These easy-to-make variations of this classic salad will let you serve and savor it your way. 

Caprese with hothouse tomatoes, basil leaves, olive oil  and burrata

WHAT YOU NEED

Sliced hothouse tomatoes
Basil leaves
Olive oil
Burrata

HOW TO PREPARE

Slice tomatoes and arrange on a plate. Carefully cut burrata into slices or wedges, being sure to get shell and filling, and place on plate. Garnish with fresh, washed basil and drizzle with olive oil. 

Caprese with grape tomatoes, bocconcini, olives, arugula, balsamic vinegar, olive oil

WHAT YOU NEED

Grape tomatoes
Bocconcini
Olives
Arugula  
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

HOW TO PREPARE

Place equal amounts of grape tomatoes, pitted kalamata olives and bocconcini in a bowl. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and toss gently.

Caprese with half yellow tomato, goat cheese and prepared pesto

WHAT YOU NEED

Half yellow tomato 
Goat cheese
Prepared pesto

HOW TO PREPARE

Cut tomato in half. Cut a tiny slice from the bottom so tomato sits securely on a plate. Using a small oiled ice cream disher, scoop goat cheese onto tomato. Crisscross with pesto drizzle.


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