Volunteers Bolster Bluffdale Celebration
Aug 22, 2016 05:09PM ● Published by Tori LaRue
Walt Hall watches the ATV rodeo at the 2016 Old West Days in Bluffdale. –Tori La Rue
Gallery: Volunteers Bolster Bluffdale Celebration [4 Images] Click any image to expand.
Most Salt Lake County municipalities throw a summer festival, but Bluffdale residents claim that none compare to their Old West Days.
“You’re just not going to find any place else like this who does it this way,” said Connie Pavlakis, the volunteer who’s seized charge of Bluffdale’s annual celebration. “The coolest thing about us that really makes us different: You could give a kid 10 bucks and send him over here—he could play every game that we have once, go on a 40-foot-high inflatable water slide and have a cheeseburger meal and a drink at the chuck wagon.”
The city can afford to sell its game tickets at a lower price than some other cities because the entire celebration is run by volunteers. Each year, volunteers plan the six-day celebration, construct new facades and edifices to hold the carnival games, manage dozens of activities and operate fair booths.
“It’s really cool because it is like turning the clock back,” Pavlakis said. “You’re walking through this fair, and you know the people at the booth, and you are visiting neighbors and friends. This is your community. I mean, it’s just it is a whole different feel than any other fair you are going to go to. It’s just different.”
Bluffdale’s festivities got a makeover when Pavlakis joined the Bluffdale Town Days volunteer committee six years ago and suggested renaming the festival and giving it an old, Western feel. Now the festival has old-West prices, old-West decorations and old-West service, according to Pavlakis.
Mont Robins, another active volunteer for the Old West Days, said he believes the Bluffdale celebration is popular because volunteering allows city leaders to take ownership of their own celebration. It’s something community members are proud of, and they want to invite others to see the project they have been involved in, he said.
This year’s celebration spanning from Aug. 813 brought in 10,000 to 12,000 participants. With Bluffdale’s population nearing 11,000 (according to the U.S. Census Bureau data from 2015), the turnout is something to be proud of, Pavlakis said.
Kelsie Krahenbuhl, Miss Bluffdale 2016, said the celebration draws many attendees because its diverse activities appeal to residents of varying ages. The celebration included a senior dinner and show which targeted the older community, a youth night for teens, a foam pit for kids and a Family Fun Rodeo for everyone.
“You know, we’ve got the old-timers with all of the history and the upcoming generation that’s helping mold Bluffdale into this new community with young faces,” Krahenbuhl said. “[Old West Days] really brings a cohesiveness. We really like to focus on family here, so through that, we’ve been able to include everybody because you want everyone to feel like they are part of the community.”
Bill Javis takes his ’51, bright-red Ford truck to car shows across the state and region, but he said the Old West Days car show has a special place in his heart because he’s from Riverton. He remembers driving a similar ’51 Ford around the area when he was 17.
“It’s good to be back,” he said.
While spectators checked out Jarvis’ car on the grassy area of the Bluffdale City Park at 14400 South 2200 West on Aug. 11, ATV rodeo contestants battled for the fastest time driving motorized bikes and four-wheelers around obstacles at the neighboring Bluffdale Rodeo Arena.
Kaden Mauroner, 12, traveled from Spanish Fork to compete in the rodeo with his older brother Spencer, who is a South Valley resident and a regular ATV rodeo participant. Kaden was nervous for his first ATV rodeo because the motor went out on his bike, so had had to use his older brother’s faster ATV.
“Two years ago, I saw my brother roll his Banshee (ATV), and I was on that Banshee,” Kaden said. “I thought I was going to tip or roll during the rodeo, but it was actually kind of exciting.”
Walt Hall stuck around to watch the ATV rodeo even though he came to the Old West Days for the senior dinner.
“I like seeing all these people here,” he said. “You get to know a lot of people and rub shoulders with them, and that’s why I am here. It’s a little like making a village out of a town.”
The Old West Days continued with a Monster Truck Competition on Aug. 12 and wrapped up with races, a community breakfast, a parade, the Old West Festival, a concert and a firework show on Aug. 13.
“The goal was to build community unity and to let people feel like this is their home,” Pavlakis said. “There will forever be fond memories of these times.”